- Franz HohlerAuthor–Switzerland
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The extensive oeuvre of Franz Hohler stands alone in contemporary German-language children's literature. Since the appearance of his first book—Tschipo—in 1978, the Zurich-based author has published poems and stories for children and, with his readings, encourages entire young audiences to try their own hand at versifying. Franz Hohler's trademark is his fantastic-realist narrative style. He typically begins with a real-life situation, to which he adds the most varied palette of peculiar and surreal elements, distorting reality and rendering it strange enough to make his readers view their surroundings for a moment through entirely new eyes. Time and again, Hohler's texts thus shore up a principle of appropriation of the world that belongs profoundly to the child's experience. Playful, enigmatic, poetic, humorous, humane, radical—these are just a few of the ways Hohler's work might be described, attributes that make his oeuvre unmistakably his own.
Franz Hohler is not an ordinary storyteller but one who is as polyvalent as he is at home in all media: he tells his stories in the form of songs, poems, narratives, micro-stories, novels, plays, and a wide range of hybrids; and he presents them to his audience—both adults and children—as books, cabaret programs, radio and television shows, readings, and even films. Telling stories just seems to be his vocation, a calling that manifest itself already early on in his life: Before he had even entered school, reading was a central occupation, and Hohler was inspired by what was read to him and what he read himself to create his own stories. As a seven-year-old, Hohler wrote stories in the style of Wilhelm Busch, which, he recounts, he gave his parents as Christmas gifts. While still at high school, he wrote feature pieces and reviews for a daily newspaper, performed in school theatrical presentations and his first variety program, and took up playing the cello (the instrument would later play a central role in his cabaret performances). In 1963, he began studies in German and Romance languages at the University of Zurich, but the power of stories and his urge to "tell" them to an audience were stronger. Following a first and highly successful solo variety show, Hohler left the university to concentrate entirely on storytelling—as an author and cabaret performer. It was 1965. Since then, in addition to writing and performing a total of fourteen solo variety programs, Hohler has published an impressive number of books (mainly short and micro-stories, some of which have also appeared as audiobooks), plays (produced in various theaters in Switzerland and Germany), and much more besides. In 1973, Hohler also began producing shows on Swiss television together with a colleague (Rene Quellet) under the title "Franz und Rene"—the start of a series of forty-seven shows, an explicit relationship with children as an audience, and the definitive birth of Franz Hohler as an author for children and young people.
The unmistakable quality of Franz Hohler's texts has its origins both in their fictional approach and in their linguistic execution: both are marked by a profound confidence in human fantasy in general, and in that of children in particular. [End Page 36]