Philipp Hager

Austria

Philipp Hager was born in 1982 in Scheibbs / Lower Austria; for a short-lived period, he studied history and ethnology; after that he made his living with various jobs, worked as dog sitter, telephone operator, doorman, referee, receptionist, beggar, proofreader. For many years he travelled around whole Europe while working as a reporter and columnist for a leading German martial arts magazine. 

In 2008 the debut novel Das Spektrum des Grashalms was released – followed by further novels and volumes of poetry.

In 2019 Philipp Hager published Los – a new collection of poetry.


Philipp Hager

 

To call this poet marvellous would be the same as to call a hurricane a gentle summer breeze.

Although it is generally not too uncommon to find and discover biographic details in a writer‘s work, in Hager‘s case his life really makes the poet. And he is talking about it in a very frank and non-lachrymose way – starting with the statement that the lines of text on his homepage are revealing only a tiny shortcut, comparable to a business card.

 

„My true biography is written in my books – in poetry and novels. I never wanted to be a writer. I wanted to become a flame.”

 

His raison d'être concentrated on the idea of life as a human being full of intensity, leading it meaningfully – more than any other person he ever knew. This juvenile attitude may appear a bit naive at first glance but, in his own words, those very strong and captivating dreams carried the boy out of childhood and dashed him into life.

 

And for this absolute beginner the first rounds turned out to be quite hard.

There was heavy drinking (“I practised it like a serious job.”), the chosen pals were roughnecks, hooligans, rebels, outsiders – all of them the most charismatic hardcore guys to be found and their business was looking for adventure, chaos, borderline experience.

Nevertheless Philipp Hager somehow managed to finish school (“I did not attend too often.”)

Then the Lower Austrian born young one moved to Vienna, went to university and was interested in history and ethnology. (“But I was not ready for it. I felt completely in the wrong place. The lessons were interesting, but I decided not to invest my present into the future. I was not ready to sacrifice my today. Today – the very moment – this was too precious to me.”)

Within this today-feeling he tried to find what he always had been looking for. He was not willing to wait, to spend his days listening to lessons, he did not ogle with a brilliant career, he wanted to enter the Golden Universe he had been dreaming of since early childhood – and he wanted it immediately. (“I was in love with myths, believing there were always dragons to kill.”)

 

He had to face dragons, probably more than he had imagined. They did not look like fairy tale beasts. They waited for him in the streets, did not spit fire but offered meaner things: After quitting university, having no money, sharing the company of beggars, homeless people and drug dealers.

(“In a way it was an adventure. Hanging around, strolling around, begging. From early daylight until the dark. Every day. Without any shelter, exposed. Rough reality, diluted with strong spirits.”)

 

The young man is 18 at that time and he is nearly done. He struggles to find a way out of this. Then he meets a very young girl, falls in love. But she is an even more lost soul than him. For a lucky moment, things seem to turn for the better – until drugs ruin hope. Intensity lasts for half the nights, but then hard mornings raise again. The young couple endures this life for a year. Then they have to face the truth. Their bodies are breaking, minds are already broken, friends die, love ends in a devastating crash.

In an enormous act of strength and pure will power Hager stops taking drugs. (“Completely alone among those kids who are using every day, who are left without any help.”)

 

In his poem Blaupause (Blueprint) the writer gives an idea of his fight – an impressing piece of poetry, although it only shows the surface of a struggle more than hard to win.

 

And then two things happen – they seem like a miracle, but Hager is making this miracle work all by himself.

First, he gets – literally – in contact with martial arts and, of course, it is the hardboiled kind: full contact Thai boxing. (“An initially timeless reality, incredibly rough, intense, worthwhile, fulfilling. Fear, pain and getting over it; my new serious job.”)

Hager manages to put his emaciated body back together again. It is pure suffering and it is pure discipline. He starts writing for an international martial arts magazine, travels around Europe every weekend reporting about fights. After long periods of pain and blood he discovers that he is not a natural born fighter himself (“It is not in my DNA.”) but a gifted writer. (“At this point writing entered my life.”)

 

Now he gets in contact with another martial power called literature. His initiation is Shakespeare’s Hamlet – and you could not invent this story in a better way.

After having led his life as a blade runner he visits Vienna´s main library for the first time and makes the library his home from this day on.

His new company: Goethe, Schiller, Eichendorff. Dostojewski, Turgenjew, Hemingway.

(“I started writing in a clumsy way. But the feeling of happiness in some moments is that burning – that hard to resist.”)

 

Philipp Hager has been writing for 16 years now. Every day. Writing is his focus, his present, his future. His poetry is a telling one. No invention of faraway fiction – he always deals with reality.

The way he addresses his surrounding is touching, clear and precise. He takes readers into a wood, shows them the plain beauty there, he writes about the moment of becoming a father and how he is protecting his baby boy, when the sibling is forced to stay in hospital, discloses his feelings about his origin, presents a winter´s night in the eyes of an owl. And all this in a gentle mood without any kitsch.

 

“I always wanted to see the magnitude and wealth of reality in the way it addresses me. While writing I sharpen my lens and narrate at the same time.”

 

Last volume of poetry: 

Los, sisyphus Verlag 2019

 

From the reviews:

“Philipp Hager is an outstanding writer, able to unconditionally immerse into the genre of the novel as well as into poetry." 

(Gegenwind) 

 

“Philipp Hager deals with open heart surgery, transplanting arteries to regions which have bled out.

(Buchkultur)