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Jenny Erpenbeck  [ Germany ]

Biography

Jenny Erpenbeck
© Hartwig Klappert

Guest 2014, 2015.

Bibliography

Geschichte vom alten Kind

Eichborn

Frankfurt a. M., 1999

Wörterbuch

Eichborn

Frankfurt a. M., 2004

Heimsuchung

Eichborn

Frankfurt a. M., 2008

Dinge, die verschwinden

Galiani

Berlin, 2009

Aller Tage Abend

Knaus

München, 2012

Jenny Erpenbeck was born in East Berlin in 1967. Both her grandparents, Hedda Zinner and Fritz Erpenbeck, well-known personalities from the GDR cultural scene, and her parents John Erpenbeck and Doris Kilias were active in the literary world. After leaving school, Erpenbeck completed an apprenticeship as a bookbinder and worked as a prop woman at the Staatsoper in Berlin before studying theatre studies at Humbolt University and musical theatre directing at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music. She has staged pieces from the Baroque era to the modern age as well as her own texts for the theatre at various opera houses and theatres, among these, in Graz, Berlin, Aachen and Nuremberg.

The slim novel »Geschichte vom alten Kind« (1999; tr. Story of the old child) was her debut as an author of prose. Laconically she describes in the book the enigmatic story of a nameless girl who has apparently just popped up out of nowhere. Critics praised in particular the idiosyncratic language that switched between distance and introspection that Erpenbeck uses to describe her contemporary female variation of the Kaspar Hausen myth. A stage adaptation celebrated its premiere at the Staatstheater in Kassel in 2003. Following her story volume »Tand« (2001) Erpenbeck published »Wörterbuch« (2004; tr. Dictionary) in which she explores the complex relationship between language and remembering. While this novel is allocated in an only literarilly defined place, in »Heimsuchung« (2008; tr. Visitation) she tells the story of a concrete house on the shores of Brandenburg lake, while the time span stretches from the First World War to the present. »Dinge, die verschwinden« (2009; tr. Things that disappear) is a collection of miniatures that illustrate in an ironic and profound manner the transience of all being from the everyday to the historical. Erpenbeck deals even more explicitly with vanitas in her most recent novel »Aller Tage Abend« (2012; eng. »End of Days«, 2014). By depicting five potential life stories of the main character, she shows the far-reaching consequences that apparently infinitesimal deviations from actual happenings can have for a person’s biography. The episodes jump both in time and across the globe between the metropolises of New York, Moscow and Berlin and always leave the reader with freedom to interpret in order to reflect on the fine line between coincidence and determinism.

Erpenbeck’s works have been translated into about twenty languages and have received many awards. In addition to several artist-in-residence grants, she has also received the Jury prize of the Ingeborg Bachmann competition, the Solothurner Literaturpreis, the Heimito von Doderer Prize, the Schubart Literature Prize, the Joseph Breitbach Prize and, most recently, the Hans Fallada Prize. Erpenbeck lives in Berlin.

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