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An Author in Germany

Jakob Nolte, 29, studied writing for the stage at the Berlin University of the Arts. He writes plays and novels.

His latest book, Terrible Forces, is an epic novel about people opting out in the 1970s, who run into terrorists and murderous elks. Nolte lives and works in his room in a shared flat in Berlin’s Neukölln district.

Income, basic costs, retirement provisions

Jakob Nolte works about 40 hours a week. He earns €30,900 a year – €22,000 of this comes from fees and royalties from novels and plays, €6,750 from prizes and scholarships, and €2,150 is from readings and holding workshops. His average net monthly income is €2,050. He pays €281 into the artists’ social security fund every month, which covers his health and nursing cover as well as a pension scheme. His other fixed costs are €366 a month for his room in the shared flat and €25 for his mobile phone contract.

What does work mean to you?

Being alert. Any experience I have could provide material for my literary work; whether I am reading something on the web, travelling or corresponding with friends by email. Writing itself, on the other hand, has a lot to do with routine. There are phases while I am working on a book when I get up at six in the morning and plunge into a tunnel of words and ideas. When I emerge from it a few hours later, I find myself looking down at three or four pages of writing. And I’m happy.

What is the most important thing in your life?

Creating things of beauty and limiting harm, both in my personal life and as a writer.

What are your biggest problems and how do you deal with them?

Keeping my work and myself as a person separate from each other. When someone writes a poor review on Amazon, for example, or posts a hurtful comment online, I feel demeaned as an individual too. Unfortunately, that is something that you just have to ignore.

How do you give yourself a treat?

Sometimes I withdraw and watch films. Recently I’ve been watching animes, a secret pleasure from my childhood. At other times, though, I may also want to celebrate with everyone around me.

What do you want from the future, and what are you doing to achieve it?

I avoid looking into the future, and I’m also wary of high expectations. At least, they are no longer on my mind that much.

Do you sometimes long to escape from your life as a writer in Berlin?

Apart from my travels, I return to my home town of Barsinghausen, near Hanover, several times a year. I go for walks in the woods, eat “spaghetti ice-cream” and meet up with my friends there. It is a good feeling that there is a Germany beyond the big sameness of Berlin.


Population: 82.8 million
Currency: Euro
GDP per capita: €38,114
Human Development Index: 4th place (out of 188 countries)

Current average costs

1 glass of beer (0.3 litres): €3.30
1 curried sausage: €1.80
1 latte macchiato: €2.90
1 day ticket for Berlin’s public transport network: €7
1 ticket to the public swimming pool: €3.50
1 ticket to the Volksbühne theatre, cheapest seats: €12