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Kenneth Bonert  [ South Africa, Canada ]

Biography

Kenneth Bonert Portrait
© Hartwig Klappert

Guest 2015.

Bibliography

Peacekeepers, 1995

In: McSweeney’s 25

San Francisco, 2007

Der Löwensucher

Diogenes

Zürich, 2014

[Ü: Stefanie Schäfer]

Kenneth Bonert was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1972, where he grew up until he and his parents emigrated to Canada in 1989. In Toronto, Bonert studied Journalism at Ryerson University and then worked as a reporter for newspapers like the »Globe and Mail« and the »National Post«.

Bonert’s short stories, including »Packers and Movers«, which was nominated for the Journey Prize, have been published in the Canadian literary magazines »Grain« and »The Fiddlehead«. His novella »Peacekeepers, 1995« was published in the anthology »McSweeney’s 25« (2007). In the framework of the highly reputed program »New Faces of Fiction« of the publishing house Knopf Random House Canada, which had already brought forth renowned Canadian authors like Yann Martel, Esi Edugyan, and Anne Marie MacDonald, Bonert’s debut novel »The Lion Seeker« appeared in 2013. This was the first time the program issued only one title in a year, which heightened the expectations for this book. In an interview with the website »Open Book Toronto«, Bonert said that writing this novel had presented him with a completely new challenge. His roots in journalism had taught him to seek the human dimension behind pure information while repeatedly checking the facts to get all the details right. For his novel, he had directed this kind of intensive research inward to gradually clarify in his imagination what he wanted to narrate. Himself descended from Lithuanian immigrants, in »The Lion Seeker« Bonert reports on Isaac Helger, the son of Jewish immigrants to South Africa. At the end of the 1930s, a time of increasing anti-Semitism, he has to decide whether to orient himself toward the past and resign himself to his fate like his father or to become a lion and fight for his love and his goals, the way his mother tirelessly works to pave the way for a better future. Bonert’s picaresque novel also shows the dark sides of the family’s struggle for survival, for example when it places itself above the black population, although its members, as Jews, have endured and continue to experience oppression and persecution first-hand. This led a review in the »National Post« to describe the book as astonishingly mature, on the one hand, and admirably incautious, on the other. Bonert himself called »The Lion Seeker« a historical novel that reflects today’s conflicts.

In 2013, »The Lion Seeker« won the National Jewish Book Award and the Edward Lewis Wallant Award. Bonert lives in Toronto, where he is working on a second novel and a collection of stories.

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