Jakob Arjouni 1964-2013

Some very sad news. German crime writer, playwright and author Jakob Arjouni has died of cancer at the age of 48.

Jakob Arjouni: Mit "Happy Birthday, Türke!" zum ganz großen Erfolg

Photo courtesy of Diogenes

Arjouni’s groundbreaking crime series featured the irrepressible Turkish-German P.I. Kemal Kayankaya. The first novel in the series, Happy Birthday, Türke (1986), was written when he was just nineteen. The third, Ein Mann, ein Mord / One Man, One Murder (1991), won the Deutscher Krimi Preis (German Crime Fiction Prize) in 1992. The fifth and final installment, Bruder Kemal / Brother Kemal, was published just last year.

Kayankaya was recently selected as one of Mark Lawson’s fifteen ‘literary detectives’ for the Radio 4 ‘Foreign Bodies’ series. Arjouni was interviewed in Berlin for the programme and spoke at length about his creation and the issues tackled in the books.

With thanks to Lauren for passing on this news.


‘Jakob Arjouni Dies’, Booktrade Info

Legendärer Krimi-Autor: Jakob Arjouni ist tot – Spiegel online (German)

‘Jakob Arjouni’s Turkish-German Kayankaya series’ – Mrs. Peabody post, Nov. 2012

The Kayankaya series in translation – No Exit Press

List of all Arjouni’s works – Diogenes Press (German)

15 thoughts on “Jakob Arjouni 1964-2013

  1. How sad, and so young. I remember listening to his interview on that radio programme in the car, that’s how I found your blog. The books sound so good.

    • Yes, lots of people found the blog thanks to ‘Foreign Bodies’ episodes, which was lovely. I never met Arjouni, but it was nice to share the airwaves with him for a little while…

      I can really recommend >Happy Birthday, Turk< as a starting point. It was published in 1986, but Kayankaya's distinctive voice has stood the test of time extremely well.

      • Happy Birthday Turk is going on my (ever expanding) list. I am also going to recommend it to my mum who was a German teacher, I think she would enjoy the combination of detective story and look at German society – and I need to tempt her away from Montalbano, she has developed a bit of thing for him since the TV series…She is over 80 so Should Know Better…

      • I hope your mum enjoys HBT, Blighty – I’d be interested to hear what she thinks of it given her German connections. But I’ll defend her right to drool over Montalbano should she wish 🙂

        Hope you enjoy the book when you get to it too!

  2. Was very saddened to learn of his passing. In the late 90s I was a fanatical follower of No Exit Press and would absorb practically everything they published which led to my becoming acquainted with Arjouni’s work. Of the many books that I read during that period his output is the one which left the most last impression on me and having recently learnt that his texts were to be republished in 2013 I anticipated a greater awareness of his novels within the marketplace and amongst aficianados of European crime fiction. If his work does become far more widely appreciated it will be a worthy celebration of an excellent writer.

    • Likewise, Andy. For me, his works are very special because of the way that they dissect and critique German society – in particular that daring first novel from a mere 20 year old – and do so with such assurance and sharp humour.

      I think you’re right that there’s been an increased awareness of Arjouni in the international crime community through the latest novel, the ‘No Exit’ reissues and the exposure that ‘Foreign Bodies’ gave him. It would be lovely if his work gained wider recognition now.

      The tributes to Arjouni in Germany have been very warm. He really was a highly appreciated writer there.

  3. Next time I’d like to be first with somewhat cheerier news. (I came across it on German teletext, actually, when looking for biathlon results. Not what I’d been expecting at all.)

    And I do hope his work continues to be read, and does get the wider audience it deserves.

    • Yes! Sorry to saddle you with ‘bearer of bad news’ title, but I did want to acknowledge that you’d taken the time to alert me.

      I have a feeling that there might be something of a surge in interest in the Kayankaya series now – I certainly hope so. I wonder if Radio 4 / Front Row might run something…or possibly repeat his ‘Foreign Bodies’ interview?

  4. I was shocked when I heard this – only 2-3 days ago I was begging someone to do a review of his newly translated or reissued novels in English (but someone else beat me to it) and then the very next day I read of his death. A great, great loss to German and world literature!

  5. Pingback: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TURK! (1986) by Jakob Arjouni | Tipping My Fedora

  6. Thanks for this post and for your effort to promote Jakob Arjouni’s books. He was an excellent author and opened new doors for young German-language authors. I like the Kayankaya series a lot, but he wrote also a novel Magic Hoffmann (that’s the original title in German because the anti-hero Hoffmann likes to pepper his conversations with English expressions and quotes) that deserves to be read – it’s also a crime story.

    • Thanks for that recommendation, Mytwostotinki. Although I’ve read all the Kayankaya novels, I haven’t read Magic Hoffmann (and didn’t realise that it was crime). On to the TBR pile it goes!

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