Urs Widmer, born in Basel in 1938 but for many years now an inhabitant of Zurich, is without doubt one of the most significant and versatile talents currently at work in the field of contemporary German-language literature as well as one of the most successful. His sales are invariably in the high five-figure bracket and, as for prizes, the Friedrich Hölderlin Prize awarded to him last year was merely the latest in a collection which already included the 2002 Grand Literature Prize of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts (Grosser Literaturpreis der Bayerischen Akademie der Schönen Künste, awarded to a writer for a lifetime’s work). Widmer studied German, French and history at the universities of Basel and Montpellier. After completing his PhD he worked briefly as an editor at Suhrkamp Verlag, but left the publishing house during the Lektoren-Aufstand (‘Editors’ Revolt’) of 1968. That was also the year in which his literary debut, Alois, was published. Since then he has created a body of work which is hard to beat for its technical versatility and thematic breadth. Widmer has also had success as a playwright, an essayist and a short story writer. To date he has only produced one published poem, but it would come as no surprise if, tucked away in a drawer, were some stabs at lengthier verse. He has also translated books from English and French, among them Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and dramatic works by Alexandre Dumas and Eugène Labiche.