German Writer-in-Residence Peter Stephan Jungk Finds Inspiration and Belonging at Oberlin

Novelist and documentary filmmaker Peter Stephan Jungk grew up in Vienna, Berlin and Salzburg before moving to Paris for more than 30 years, but Oberlin College and its bucolic surroundings have felt like a home away from home ever since. his first visit in 2003. Oberlin itself has a notable place in his 2021 memoir Marktgeflusterabout a home in an open-air market in Paris.

“I would say that Paris has become my home, even if I am a complete stranger there. I’m completely fluent in German and English, but French remains a problem”, admits Jungk, who is this year Max Kade German Writer in Residence. If the name sounds familiar to those familiar with institutional history, that’s because this is Jungk’s third residency teaching German literature to Oberlin students. Since the college began residency in 1968, Jungk is the only author to have been chosen more than once. His last selection dates from 2018.

So when asked to come back a third time, he had some reservations. He didn’t want to deprive other writers of the opportunity, and the offer came with a twist: he was asked to teach a screenwriting workshop to replace film studies professor Geoff Pingree while on leave. sabbatical.

“This time it’s very different because in addition to teaching German literature, I prepare the workshop and meet very talented young people who mainly come from the creative writing program. I have less time to work on my next novel, but I’m not complaining, it’s been fun,” says Jungk, whose accomplishments as a writer and screenwriter include 12 books and five documentaries.

His 2016 documentary Follow Edith tells the story of a great aunt, Edith Tudor-Heart. It was well known in Jungk’s family that Tudor-Heart was a talented photographer, but it wasn’t until 20 years after her death that Jungk learned that she had lived a double life as a KGB agent who helped create the Cambridge Five, the Soviet Union. UK’s most successful spy ring.

Assistant German teacher Gabriel Cooper benefited from Jungk’s tutelage both as a teacher and as an alumnus of Oberlin. He first met Jungk in the fall of 2003, when he was a student at German Seminar 315 Writer-in-Residence.

“I was already impressed with his writing at the time, and when I think of how we students wrote for him every week in German – as learners of that language – he seems incredibly far-fetched. that he’s interested in us and our experiences. But he was genuinely interested, and that’s how we had conversations, inside and outside of the classroom, about everything from language and belonging to American family, home, life and culture.

Cooper stayed in touch with Jungk long after his studies at Oberlin. In the spring of 2017, he invited Jungk back to Oberlin for a week-long symposium he hosted on Jungk’s writing and films. Cooper also taught a class module this semester on Jungk’s work “as a way to give back to Oberlin what Oberlin had given me as part of my education in German language and literature.”

In choosing authors to fill the Max Kade Residency, the German Department considers individuals who will engage well with students and who are established and working writers in German.

“Peter Stephan Jungk is an ideal candidate not only because of his accomplishments, but also because of what he can offer Writer-in-Residence seminar students,” says Cooper. “Peter is very accessible, insatiably curious, generous and open with students, especially when it comes to his life and his art. From what students have reported and from my own experience, I know that Peter invites students to share their thoughts on his writing, even their most critical reactions, because he relishes this exchange with readers. This sets him apart from many other authors, and it also explains why he was such a good fit for the program.

As is tradition with the Max Kade residency, Jungk will give a public reading in English of his biographical and autobiographical writings. The event will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26 at Kade House. Cooper will moderate a conversation and a Q&A session will follow.

Jungk says it serves him well to be immersed with young talent who can show him a different world. And although the landscape of Oberlin is very different from Austria or Switzerland, it continues to find inspiration here.

“I am very interested in the aspirations of my students. I know it’s a cliché, but teaching is learning.

James R. Rhodes