Short Portrait: Hubert Fichte

Hubert Fichte
Hubert Fichte

* 21. März 1935 in Perleberg, Landkreis Westprignitz; † 8. März 1986 in Hamburg

Hubert Fichte was born on March 21, 1935 in Perleberg Hospital. A few weeks after his birth his family moved to Hamburg-Lokstedt. Fichtes mother worked as stenotypist and he was mostly raised by his grandmother. His father, a Jewish merchant, emigrated to Sweden and Fichte never met him. His parents were not married. As a child Fichte was made believe he was a half-orphan. He received an education as actor and farmer. In the late fifties he worked in Provence, France, as a shepherd for several months. From 1961 on he lived in Hamburg.

In the mid sixties Fichte published his first novels. He then had a regular column called Plattenragout (record ragout) in the political magazine konkret. In 1966 he criticised German police's work in those days in an article called „the police – your friend and aide“: "Shall the baton displace arguments, humour, understanding from the side of the police in this young democracy, burdened with an evil mortgage?" (konkret, Nr. 8). His main influences were Marcel Proust, Hans Henny Jahnn and Jean Genet. With Genet he did a famous interview. He first met Jahnn in 1949 and Jahnn helped Fichte reveal his homosexuality. Fichte described their friendship in his novel Versuch über die Pubertät (Attempt about the puberty) in 1974.

In the seventies Fichte worked more and more on ethnological research. From 1971 to 1975 he travelled to Bahia (Brazil), Haiti and Trinidad several times. He later described the works based on this travels, like Xango (1976) and Petersilie, (1980) as "Ethnopoesie". With them he created his very own technique of combining science and poetry. A sort of „domestic ethnology“ was done with his St. Pauli interviews like in Wolli Indienfahrer (St. Pauli is a famous low income and subculture district in Hamburg). Fichte's longtime companion (since 1961) Leonore Mau published her photograph volumes Xango and Petersilie at the same time.

As an outsider to the discipline, Fichte had ambitions to establish himself in German Anthropology/Ethnology (i.e. in Bremen with the help of Sterly) but was rejected by the academies. Nevertheless, many of his writings can be called ethnographic: Fichte struggled with the question of how to express culture contact and the experience with the Other/foreign appropriately in language (sound and photography).

In the late sixties Fichte began writing his main work Die Geschichte der Empfindlichkeit (the history of the sensibility, or: the story of the pettishness) a monumental cycle of novels. His last set of plans showed his intention to write nineteen books, most of them novels, but also some volumes of essays, called “Glossen”. For these “Glossen” he wanted to compile and rewrite much of his journalistic work like radio features, news paper articles and interviews. The novels describe the life of the homosexual writer “Jäcki” and his cohabitee “Irma”, an older woman and photographer. Fichte could not finish the whole cycle. The existing parts were published after his death. They contain 6 complete novels, 2 fragments of novels, 4 “Glossen”-volumes and 5 supplement volumes. The latter contain interviews, articles and features he wanted to use for “Glossen” books, but could not revise them. At least three more novels he had planned are completely missing.

Fichte died of AIDS-related illness in 1986. Since 1995 the city of Hamburg has awarded the Hubert Fichte Prize for extraordinary literary works.

Fichte is referred to in


(with a few exceptional remarks, this text is taken over from Wikipedia, Dec 23rd, 2011:; photo source:

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