Co-author of the Kluftinger crime novels
Michael Kobr, born in 1973 in Kempten in Allgäu, studied a teaching degree in German and French at FAU. After completing his State Examination he worked at various schools in Bavaria. In 2003, he wrote the crime novel ‘Milchgeld’ together with his childhood friend Volker Klüpfel which made many best seller lists across Germany. The book’s main character is the quirky Inspector Kluftinger – who is now also famous on German television screens. The eighth book in the Kluftinger series, ‘Grimmbart’, was published in 2014. The two authors have been touring Germany, Austria and Switzerland since March 2015 with their ‘litcomedy’ show, which includes texts, comedy and film clips (www.kommissar-kluftinger.de). Michael Kobr is currently taking a sabbatical from teaching to focus on writing, performing and his family. His lives in Allgäu with his wife and two daughters.
I grew very fond of Erlangen.
Mr Kobr, what led you to move to Erlangen from Allgäu to study?
My father’s family is from Fürth so we had visited the region a lot, especially when my grandmother was still alive. While I was there I fell in love with Erlangen.
Is there a particular highlight from your time as a student that you look back on with fond memories?
If I say sitting my State Examination it sounds horribly negative, but I don’t mean it to. I really enjoyed studying and I grew very fond of Erlangen. But after eight years at university, including a short time studying law, it’s nice when it’s rewarded with a proper qualification. During my time at university there were many wonderful encounters, performances with the university choir, and a lecture by Siegfried Lenz in the Audimax that left a particularly lasting impression on me.
What was your favourite pub or favourite place in Erlangen?
I used to study in the Botanical Garden when the weather was nice; that was beautiful. We often went to Pleitegeier and Kanapee, which probably doesn’t exist any more, and of course E-Werk – and not just during the Bergkirchweih.
Are you still in contact with any of your former fellow students?
Unfortunately we only hear from each other now and then, as after graduating we all ended up in different places.
How have your friends and acquaintances reacted to your resounding success as an author?
Success didn’t come overnight; it was a gradual process. That was certainly a good thing, not just for us but for those around us too. When I took the step of taking a sabbatical from work it was a surprise for a lot of people. Some of my colleagues then kindly said that I could bring my family round for dinner if I found things weren’t going so well. A few turned their backs on me which was a shame, but it’s normal in a process where you certainly change yourself and different things take priority.
The popularity of your books is certainly largely down to the unique character Kluftinger. What do you like most about him?
He’s a down-to-earth, brutally honest guy who won’t be swayed. And he says what he thinks. This gets him into trouble sometimes, but he always stays true to himself.
Your novels are set in real places in Allgäu – how do the people where you’re from feel about these places becoming more and more well-known thanks to your books and films?
Well, the Allgäu tourist board is quite happy. And the locals have thought for a long time that their region deserves recognition. In direct contact we have only ever had positive feedback about our books. We don’t think we’re above these places and people; we try to present them as they are to an extent. Unfortunately this affectionate, empathetic view has not always been conveyed in the films so far, and that has caused some upset.
We are often advised to keep our professional lives separate from our private lives. You write your crime novels with your childhood friend and spend a lot of time with him in general, such as when you’re touring with your litcomedy show. What is the secret to your friendship?
We don’t sugar-coat anything and we can be critical sometimes without worrying that the other might be offended. When we first started working together that wasn’t always the case; it was a learning process. But working so closely together wouldn’t be possible otherwise. And the fact that we are always looking in the same direction and have shared goals from a professional point of view also helps our friendship of course.
What has been your best moment as an author since the success of your first novel ‘Milchgeld’?
There have been and there still are countless wonderful moments. I didn’t plan to live how I am able to live now – as a freelance author. Life is full of surprises. I know that it is a great privilege; I have access to opportunities that I never would have had as a teacher. Some of the highlights might include the Corine Literature Prize, our shows in Circus Krone in Munich and on the open-air stage in Altusried, or our book tour in Poland that we were able to do recently after being invited to by the Goethe-Institut.
Which Kluftinger book is your favourite and why?
At the moment it’s ‘Grimmbart’, our latest book. It has a dark, morbid atmosphere and we play with elements of fairy tales, which has a particular appeal – and Kluftinger has to deal with a culture clash with his son’s Japanese father-in-law. It has everything you expect in a typical Kluftinger novel.
Would you describe for us what your perfect day would be like?
Lots of time, breakfast with my family, a short trip to the mountains perhaps, a good traditional meal, and the afternoon spent relaxing in my hammock, reading or maybe even writing a little. And if there was a good film or time with friends in the evening, I can’t think of anything better.
Interview: Imke Zottnick-Linster (May 2015)