1988 saw a change in Michael Ende’s circumstances for both better and worse.
At the beginning of the year Friedrich Meyer-Oertel’s production of The Hunting of the Snark was premiered at the Prince Regent Theatre in Munich. Ende and Hiller had been commissioned to write the opera by the Bavarian State Theatre. The libretto was based loosely on Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem, and the production was directed by Carl Heinz Erkrath. German critic Joachim Kaiser wrote a scathing review in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and it was never performed again. The libretto, together with Ende’s translation of Lewis Carroll’s poem, was published by Weitbrecht Verlag with a foreword by Herbert Rosendorfer.
January 1988 also marked the opening of an exhibition on Michael Ende and Wilfried Hiller, documenting the two men’s ten-year collaboration. The exhibition was curated by Elisabeth Wouska and shown at the State Theatre in Munich.
Michael Ende’s success did not contrive to make the author any happier. Whilst Ende continued to write books and win prizes, a disaster was looming in the background, ready to break over him with devastating force. In May 1988 Michael Ende discovered that he had been defrauded by his accountant, who had accumulated millions of marks of debt in his name. Ende faced bankruptcy. Items of furniture and some of his father’s artwork were sold in part-payment of the debt. His publishers rallied around him and tried to limit the extent of the damage. Thanks to the efforts of his friends, the press didn’t get wind of the news. Ende had never seen wealth as a priority, and this was surely a comfort as he struggled to cope with the disaster. The endless negotiations put his resilience to the test as his new accountant tried to put his finances in order.
Life went on. On 4th September 1988 Das Gauklermärchen was premiered as an opera with music by Gerhard Konzelmann at the Opera House in Cologne. Its run ended after a single performance.
Michael Ende was awarded the cultural prize of Bavarian bank Raiffeisenbanken. On 1st April 1988 SWF Baden-Baden screened a TV version of Trödelmarkt der Träume with renditions of Ende’s songs by singers and song-writers including Angelo Branduardi, Joana Emetz, Joyce Faber, Astrid Jakob and Hana Zagorowa.
In 1989 German publishing house DTV published Das Michael Ende Lesebuch (‘Michael Ende: Selected Texts’) edited by Hansjörg Weitbrecht. Ende’s novel The Night of Wishes: or, The Satanarchaeolidealcohellish Notion Potion became a German bestseller within a matter of weeks and soon attracted international attention.