Why I wrote ‘Wunderkind’

I believe that the creative spirit transforms the world. A gift of talent is bestowed on an artist and he or she labours in its service. The fruit of their toil is then offered to us all, where it in turn can awaken our individual gift or dream.

At its heart ‘Wunderkind’ is an exploration of the power of the imagination. Some of the artists who I interviewed believe that art is a weapon, others that art can heal, or that art deals with the mysteries that lie in the spaces between the words. Many found their voice in defiance of communist repression or capitalist materialism. Some of them cite Russian literature, Christian iconography, Joseph Beuys, and even Elvis Presley as their inspiration. All aspire – both in their lives and in the book — to articulate their creative process from a sensual, sensory or intellectual starting-point to the full expression in aesthetic beauty and purity of idea, and so remind us that there are as many ways of living and thinking as there are individuals.

As one reader wrote, ‘This is a great book and project. The interviews with 50 German writers and artists touch on many themes and are like an array of personal gems strung loosely on a set of common concerns. The interviews are on the whole quite short, but impact makes up for brevity and in almost every instance makes me want to find out more about the artist concerned and their work. The vexed question of post-war German “identity” is dealt with by several artists in a personal but searching way while cultural and historical dimensions give these personal reflections a weight and substance. Being German myself, but having lived abroad now for 30 years, I found myself reflecting on my own decision to leave the country of my birth. While I originally put it down to the exploratory enthusiasm of youth, I am now not so sure, but found myself repeatedly agreeing with the thoughts and often poignant feelings expressed by Rory MacLean’s interviewees. Just as this generation of artists is trying to come to terms with what contemporary Germany means to them in this wonderfully diverse collection of individual voices, it has forced me once again to confront the same questions. I very much recommend this book to anyone thinking about what it means to be German in the 21st century, particularly at a time of increased migration and exile. Many of the personal stories collected here provide ample inspiration for how to forge one’s own identity (and what identity means) in the fragmented and fluid world in which we now all live.’