Guest 2009, 2005.

Judith Hermann [ Germany ]

Judith Hermann was born in Berlin in 1970. Here she studied German Language and Literature and worked as a waitress and actress. After training to be a journalist she completed an internship in New York at the German-speaking newspapers »New Yorker Staatszeitung« and »Aufbau«. In 1997 she was awarded a stipend by the Academy of Art. At the Alfred Döblin House in Wewelsfleth she wrote nine stories in the space of a few months, which were published in the volume »Sommerhaus, später« (Eng. »Summerhouse, later«, 2001) in 1998. Both critics and the public were enthusiastic about the publication and confirmed the appraisal by Marcel Reich-Ranicki on the TV show »Literarisches Quartett« (t: Literary Quartett): »Here we have a new author, an outstanding author. Her success will be great.«

Hermann’s stories are considered in the tradition of Anton Chekhov and Raymond Carver and distinctively express the attitude towards life of her generation. Rich in atmosphere, detailed and somehow also laconic, the author portrays scenes of everyday life which casually develop into a plot. As in the title story, she often deals with intangible relationships, which through lack of commitment and indecision do not find fulfilment. A romantic feeling of insufficiency is combined with memorable and beautiful images and sentences, without the underlying tension developing into pathos. According to Micheal Naumann, »Judith Hermann’s language is sparing, full of pauses, almost silent – acting without speaking, as most of her protagonists prefer to do. Occasionally they embody shadowy memories of long forgotten passions, at other times waiting motionlessly for a future happiness that will never come.«

In 2003 Hermann brought out her second volume of stories, »Nichts als Gespenster« (Eng 2005; »Nothing but Ghosts«). Since then she has become one of the few artists who has retained her reputation and support from critics and readers after it was popular to support literature by German youths, especially girls. Her style, judged as »distinctive, instinctive, undetermined, addictive« by reviews, is also present in these seven new stories. They continue her tone, yet are presented against an international background: in Karlsbad an old relationship is quietly laid to rest, in America a couple find each other again rather by chance, and in Venice, during a meeting with her parents, a young woman notices that she has suddenly entered adulthood. In 2007 the bestseller was successfully released as a film and awarded numerous accolades.

Two years later in »Alice«, the author presents five stories pronounced by the jury of the Friedrich Hölderlin Prize as »not only atmospheric and compelling but also stylistically masterful stories of death and experience of loss«. Amongst Hermann’s other awards are the city of Bremen’s Literature Prize, the Hugo-Ball Prize and the renowned Kleist Prize. Judith Hermann has a son and lives in Berlin.

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