Benjamin Maack

If That Still Works, Things Can’t Be That Bad

Benjamin Maack
Foto: Benjamin Maack
© Heike Steinweg

Benjamin Maack, born in 1978, studied Art History, Philosophy and Cultural Anthropology. He has published volumes of short stories and poetry entitled Du bist es nicht, Coca Cola ist es (2004), Die Welt ist ein Parkplatz und endet vor Disneyland (2007) and Monster (2012). Apart from further distinctions, he has been awarded the 3sat-Prize at the Ingeborg Bachmann Competition 2013 as well as the advancement award at the Hermann Hesse Prize 2016. He lives in Hamburg where he works as an author and journalist.

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Domestic Rights Sales: German Radio Play (NDR, Deutschlandfunk Kultur, BR)

»Because my head has smashed my world to bits.«

»When I’m healthy again, I want to explain what depressions are like to Friederike. But depressions are cunning. When you’re healthy, you can’t remember what being sick was like. And when you’re sick, you can’t imagine ever being healthy again.«


»Am I going to be tired for the rest of my life now?« Benjamin Maack asks as he stands outside a psychiatric hospital with his big black suitcase. Four years prior he had committed himself after a nervous breakdown – the diagnosis: depression.

Now he is back again and talks about those last nights he had spent no longer in the marital bed but on the sofa, sleepless, nervous, panicked. And about the everyday routine in the hospital. About how the nurses congratulate him on his 40th birthday instead of his wife and children and about learning to knit in the creative workshop. He talks about medications, their side effects, the suicidal thoughts and that night when even the strong sedatives fail to help and he is transferred to the »secure ward behind the secure ward« – constantly seesawing between hope and deep despair.

If That Still Works, Things Can’t Be That Bad is a disarmingly honest testimony of living with depression. Benjamin Maack wrests tragicomic moments from the merciless disease and talks about it in images that are as moving as they are lucid. However, his story is not just a report of his time in hospital or a medical record but also a family drama and the story of a personal fate. An unsparing work of literary force.


»The achievement of If That Still Works, Things Can’t Be That Bad is not the subreption of the ›empathy‹ that is often so hastily conjured today. The book names something that people can’t share; it doesn’t call for help nor does it administer it, but it allows for attentiveness, respect and good sense particularly where those three would be impossible without the kind of work this text reifies.« Dietmar Dath, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»Maack‘s introspection doesn’t simply indugle in a merely elegiac list of symptoms, anxieties and eruptions of identity. He manages to find a dense formal language for that which has no form, for the chaotic.« Björn Hayer, DIE ZEIT

»If That Still Works, Things Can’t Be That Bad is, without a doubt, a feat. It’s near impossible to describe in more detail how someone is doing when there is no way forward.« Konstantin Nowotny, der Freitag

»In regards to his search for meaning and words, Maack is reminiscent of David Foster Wallace’s narrative about depression The Planet Trillaphon As It Stands In Relation to The Bad Thing […]. Benjamin Maack has suceeded in adding a novel story about the depression to the existing ones.« Jan Drees, Deutschlandfunk

»Maack’s style is calm, precise and brutally honest and at the same time captivating in its incredible ease and variability.« EKZ on Monster