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Fichte, Hubert (1935-1986)  

Hubert Fichte, the first author to introduce homosexuality openly into German literature after World War II, was born on March 21, 1935, in Perleberg/Westpriegnitz. His Jewish father fled Germany before his birth, and his unwed Protestant mother reared him at her parents' home in Hamburg. In order to keep ahead of Nazi persecution, his mother hid him for a year (1942) in a Catholic orphanage in Upper Bavaria.

At the age of eleven, Fichte began working as a child actor at some of the most important theaters in Hamburg. As an adolescent in high school, he met the Hamburg author and hormone researcher, Hans Henny Jahnn, whose complex character had a decisive impact on Fichte's intellectual development and sexual self-awareness.

From his mid-teens to his late twenties, he studied French, worked as a shepherd in Provence, directed a camp for the poor in Paris, studied agriculture in Northern Germany and Sweden, and worked at a home for juvenile delinquents in Sweden. Already beginning to have some journalistic success with art and book reviews, he declared himself an independent author in 1963.

Although Fichte has entered German literary history as a "homosexual author," his person and work display a broad range of outsider positions: half-Jewish, illegitimate child, and bisexual. In his strongly autobiographical first four novels, The Orphanage (1965), The Palette (1968), Detlev's Imitations (1971), and Attempt at Puberty (1974), homosexuality is always present but only gradually becomes the defining factor.

In The Orphanage, Fichte already portrays the six-year-old Detlev sexually experimenting with an older boy, but it is a relatively minor detail.

Fichte's most successful novel, The Palette, is a vivid portrayal of Hamburg's underworld since it is embodied in the dive-bar after which the novel is named. This underworld is inhabited by junkies, bums, drunkards, hustlers, and fags.

Although this is the novel that established Fichte's identity as a gay author, the gay existence that it describes is shared by all of society's semicriminal Others, and the sexual component is just one point on the spectrum.

In Detlev's Imitations, the child actor Detlev first becomes aware of the taboo word homosexual from his mother; it invokes in him the image of Achilles and Patroclus as "Homersexuals." This is the first point in Fichte's work where homosexuality begins to have its own outsider identity.

Attempt at Puberty, which has drawn the most critical acclaim, addresses homosexuality as the decisive stigma that accompanies the pubescent Detlev's transition into the adult Jäcki of The Palette.

When Fichte died on March 8, 1986, in Hamburg, he was still working on the nineteen-volume novel cycle, The History of Sensitivity. In these posthumously released novels, homosexuality figures as the means to become sensitive to other marginalized people, whether they be political prisoners in the Third World or African Americans in New York City.

It is finally this voice of marginalization and nonidentification that unifies Fichte's work and finds its most universal expression in homosexuality.

Craig B. Palmer


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Beckermann, Thomas, ed. Hubert Fichte. Materialien zu Leben und Werk. Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 1985.

Böhme, Hartmut, and Nikolaus Tiling, eds. Leben, um eine Form der Darstellung zu erreichen. Studien zum Werk Hubert Fichtes. Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 1991.

"Hubert Fichte." Text + Kritik 72 (1981).

Vollhaber, Tomas. Das Nichts. Die Angst. Die Erfahrung. Untersuchung zur zeitgenössischen schwulen Literatur. Berlin: Verlag rosa Winkel, 1987.

Wangenheim, Wolfgang von. Hubert Fichte. München: Beck/Verlag Edition Text + Kritik, 1980.


    Citation Information
    Author: Palmer, Craig B.  
    Entry Title: Fichte, Hubert  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated February 28, 2002  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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