Peter Stephan Jungk [ Austria, France ]
Peter Stephan Jungk was born in Santa Monica, California, in 1952. The son of a Jewish family of emigrants spent his childhood and youth in Vienna, West Berlin, and Salzburg. He then became an assistant producer at the Theater of Basel, and worked on several films before studying at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. In Paris, in the year 1977, he worked as an assistant director on Peter Handke’s film »The Left-Handed Woman«. His collection of short stories »Stechpalmenwald« (1978; tr: Hollywood) was published in the following year. In 1979/80 he enrolled in a Torah school in Jerusalem, where he wrote his first novel »Rundgang« (1981; Eng. »Shabbat – A Rite of Passage in Jerusalem«, 1985) about city walks that inspire one to reflect on heimat (home) and identity.
Jungk’s seven novels have all focused on the themes of identity and individualism. His protagonists are restless characters, who strive for their vocation and roots (»Tigor«, 2003, Eng. »Tigor« aka »The Snowflake Constant«, 2003; »Die Unruhe der Stella Federspiel«, 1996; tr: The Uneasiness of Stella Federspiel; »Die Erbschaft«, 1999; Eng. »The Inheritance«, 2010). »Der König von Amerika« (2001, Eng. »Perfect American«, 2004) is the novelistic biography of Walt Disney, and depicts the fascinating character of a charismatic corporate dictator, whose visions triggered the creation of amazing works. Philip Glass’ opera, which will premiere in 2013, is based on Jungk’s novel about Walt Disney. »Die Reise über den Hudson« (2005, Eng. »Crossing the Hudson«, 2009), is the follow-up to the fictitious life story of Walt Disney. It is a novel with autobiographic elements about a man’s strive for self-discovery who, because of the suffocating care of his mother and his overpowering father, cannot find his way out of his role as a son. Jungk’s latest book, »Das elektrische Herz« (2011; tr: The Electric Heart) is about the love between a Jewish playwright, who has suffered from heart problems since his youth, and a young Kabylian postwoman. She makes him tell her about all of his love affairs, because she cannot become involved with him until she knows everything about his past. And so, in a constant dialogue with his heart, the womanizer unrolls quite a number of »conquests« - all told with a considerable amount of irony. The author is trained as a playwright and screenwriter and employs an idiom rich in images combined with a - sometimes magical - realistic style. He composes thought-provoking portraits, tableaus full of facts, and enthralling plots. In addition to novels and short stories, Jungk wrote a bestseller about the life of Franz Werfel (1987), which the critics labelled the »first truly comprehensive biography, and an excellent read, not only for this very reason« (FAZ). He also works as a translator, and as an author and director for radio, television, and the press.
Peter Stephan Jungk has received the Stefan Andres Award. He was a Writer in Residence at the Oberlin College in Ohio and at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He lives in Paris with his wife, photographer Lillian Birnbaum, and their daughter.
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