Friedrich Christian Delius (1943-2022)

Delius was born in Rome and grew up in Hessen. His father, who died in 1960, was a Lutheran pastor. We get some insights into Delius’s childhood in the autobiographical story Der Sonntag, an dem ich Weltmeister wurde; The Sunday I Became World Champion (1994).

In 1970 he completed his PhD thesis, Der Held und sein Wetter (The Hero and his Weather), which investigates descriptions of weather in 19th-century German fiction.

In 1972 he published a satirical documentary Festschrift (commemorative publication) for the multinational company Siemens. Siemens filed for an injunction against Delius and his publisher, Rotbuch Verlag. The case lasted until 1976, with Delius claiming ‘a victory on points’. The publisher was permitted to publish the book, subject to nine deletions.

Delius’s ‘German Autumn’ trilogy, published between 1981 and 1987, focuses on the left-wing terrorism which peaked in West Germany in the autumn of 1977. Here is a brief summary of the events which form the basis of the trilogy. On 5 September 1977, members of the Red Army Fraction (RAF) kidnapped Hanns-Martin Schleyer, president of the Confederation of German Employers’ Association, killing his three bodyguards and driver. In exchange for Schleyer’s release, terrorists demanded the release of RAF leaders from Stuttgart-Stammheim prison. Then, on 13 October, Palestinian terrorists sympathetic to the RAF hijacked a Lufthansa plan, which lands in Mogadishu, Somalia. On 17 October, German security forces stormed the aircraft and shot three hijackers; the next day, Andreas Baader, Jan-Carl Raspe, Gudrun Ensslin were found dead in their prison cells. Soon afterwards, Schleyer too was found dead.

Delius’s novella Die Birnen von Ribbeck; The Pears of Ribbeck (1991) was one of the first major fictional responses to German reunification in 1990.

In 2011 he was awarded Germany’s most prestigious literary prize, the Büchner Prize.

His works include:

Kerbholz (1965) [Record] 

Wir Unternehmer (1966) [We Entrepreneurs]

Unsere Siemens-Welt (1972) [Our Siemens World]

Amerika-Haus und der Tanz um die Frauen (1977) [America House and the Dance around the Women]

Ein Held der inneren Sicherheit (1981) [A Hero of Internal Security]

Adenauerplatz (1984) [Adenauer Square]

Mogadischu Fensterplatz (1987) [Window Seat at Mogadishu]

Konservativ in 30 Tagen. Ein Hand- und Wörterbuch Frankfurter Allgemeinplätze (1988) [Conservative in 30 Days: A Handbook and Dictionary of Frankfurter Commonplaces]

Die Birnen von Ribbeck (1991) [The Pears of Ribbeck]

Himmelfahrt eines Stadtfeindes (1992) [Ascension of an Enemy of the State]

Der Sonntag, an dem ich Weltmeister wurde (1994) [The Sunday I Became World Champion]

Der Spaziergang von Rostock nach Syrakus (1995) [The Walk from Rostock to Syracuse]

Die Flatterzunge (1999) [Flutter-Tongue]

Der Königsmacher (2001) [Kingmaker]

Mein Jahr als Mörder (2004) [My Year as a Murderer]

Die Minute mit Paul McCartney (2005) [The Minute with Paul McCartney]

Bildnis der Mutter als junge Frau (2006) [Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman]

Die Frau, für die ich den Computer erfand (2009) [The Woman for Whom I Invented the Computer]

Die linke Hand des Papstes (2013) [The Pope’s Left Hand]

Die Liebesgeschichtenerzählerin (2016) [The Teller of Love Stories]

“Darling, it’s Dilius!” Erinnerungen mit großem A. (2023) [Memories with a Capital A.; Autobiography]

English Translations

Friedrich Christian Delius, The Pears of Ribbeck, trans. by Hans Werner (Toronto: Exile Editions, 1991)

Friedrich Christian Delius, The Sunday I Became World Champion, trans. by Scott Williams (New York: Continuum, 2001)

Friedrich Christian Delius, Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman, trans. by Jamie Bulloch (London: Pereine Press, 2010)

Further Reading in English

Julian Preece, Baader-Meinhof and the Novel: Narratives of the Nation / Fantasies of the Revolution, 1970-2010 (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), Chapter 2 on F. C. Delius’s ‘German Autumn’ trilogy

Ernest Schonfield, Business Rhetoric in German Novels: From Buddenbrooks to the Global Corporation (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2018), Chapter 7, pp. 133-52: ‘Corporate Discourse in Friedrich Christian Delius’s Unsere Siemens-Welt, 1972’

Web Links in English

Introduction to Friedrich Christian Delius and two of his books

Review of Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Nicholas Lezard in The Guardian

Web Link in German

Friedrich Christan Delius: the author’s official website