Johannes Mario Simmel

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (01/02/2009)

Best selling author a strong advocate of his political convictions

Vienna – Critics gladly ranked his works with those considered “sophisticated popular fiction” The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung even compared him with Germany’s newspaper, Bild. He tells fairytales of old and repackages them into a contemporary context. Nevertheless, the allegation that he recycles clichés never held true for the best selling author Johannes Mario Simmel, native of Vienna who lived decades in Switzerland, using a socio-critical approach in his literature.

Simmel, himself, characterized his novels as “faction,” containing a mixture of fact and fiction. Using such ingredients, the author was highly successful in selling to his audience some seventy-three million copies of his books for decades throughout thirty-five various countries.

Also outside the field of literature, Simmel was a strong advocate of his political convictions. Writing about neo-Nazis, he said: “Once the main representatives of the “Herrenrasse” either had club feet, like Goebbels, or were fat, morphine-addicts, like Göring. Now they are like small boys with glandular deficiencies, who overcompensate for their anxieties when faced with girls.” In 1996 the author was acquitted from charges of having been maliciously slandering the head of the Freedom Party, Jörg Haider. In 2004 he spoke out against the coalition of the Freedom Party and the Social Democratic Party in Carinthia and broke with the Social Democratic movement in Austria after having supported them for years.

Simmel, who was born on April 7, 1924, in Vienna, spent his childhood in both Vienna and England. His parents came from Hamburg where his father was a chemist and his mother was an editor in film publishing. Many of his relatives on the Jewish side of his father’s family were killed during the Nazi era, whereas his father survived by living in Great Britain. Simmel presented his first series of short novels when his was only seventeen years old with the title, “Encounters in the Fog,” which was published in 1947 by Zsolnay Publishers. After completing his education in chemistry, he worked as an interpreter for the U.S. occupation forces in Vienna after WW II. In 1948 he began writing for the “Welt am Abend” and became one of Austria’s youngest editors on culture. Willi Forst discovered him, using his talents as a writer of film screen plays.

In 1950 Simmel settled in Germany and traveled throughout the world as a reporter for the magazine, “Quick.” Using seven different pseudonyms, such as Robert Faber, Justus Spitzweg and Pinguin, among others, he became a prolific writer whose reports and later on novels were awarded for their detailed research. At that time Simmel was considered the best paid writer for illustrated magazines. From 1950 to 1962 he wrote screenplays, drawn from his own imagination as well as from others’ material, totaling some thirty-six films, including “Stefanie,” “Miracles Happen,” “Diary of One in Love,” “Hotel Adlon” and “Robinson Shouldn’t Die.”

“His great success,” according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine was written in 1960 when Simmel published “It Can’t Always Be Caviar.” The international best seller was filmed with O.W. Fischer and was also produced as a television series. In the same year his piece written for the theater, “The School Friend,” captured the stages at home and abroad, and the drama was filmed with Heinz Rührmann.

Ever since the breakthrough with the series, Simmel’s success was on the rise. It was followed by “To the Bitter End” in 1962, a novel about alcoholism, and personal affliction by the author, himself. “Love is Just a Word” depicts the cheap world of the wealthy and tells of a love that is condemned to fail. In fall of 1971 Simmel reached the top of the German best seller list with “The Caesar Code” and “The Stuff Dreams are Made Of,” along with two other books.

“Hurray we’re still Alive,” a novel about post-war Germany with numerous autobiographic incidents inserted, was filmed in 1983 by Peter Zadek bearing the title, “The Wild Fifties.” During the 1980s and 1990s, Simmel worked on “The Clowns Brought the Tears” and “The Skylarks are Singing for the Last Time in spring,” involving problems of the environment.

In the meantime, the author has succeeded in capturing also the “sublime halls” of research at Boston University where there is a “Johannes Mario Simmel Collection of books and letters by the author, accessible to students of German Language and Literature. He described his motivation for work in the following: “I will continue writing in order to avoid the Armageddon because a miracle could happen. And he who doesn’t believe in miracles is no realist.”

In November 2004 Federal President Heinz Fischer awarded the author the Grand Decoration of Honor in Silver for Services to the Republic of Austria during a celebration held in St. Gallen. The Austrian Head of State stated that he had “always held Simmel in high esteem for his stance, his ethos and clear words.” In March 2005 the author was awarded with the Federal Cross of Merit, 1st Class by the Federal Republic of Germany’s Order of Merit.