Guest 2007, 2010, 2012.

Wladimir Kaminer [ Germany, Russia ]

Wladimir Kaminer was born in 1967 in Moscow. After studying to be a sound engineer for theatre and radio, he studied Dramaturgy at the Moscow Institute of Theatre. In 1990, he moved to East Berlin in what was at that point still the GDR. After being assigned a place in an immigrant hostel in Marzahn, he made Prenzlauer Berg the centre of his life and his writing. He became famous for his work as a columnist with his comical descriptions of scenes from Berlin's daily life, the vicissitudes of the German reunification process, and reminiscences of the lost Soviet life. He was published in, among others, the »zitty«, the »taz«, the »Frankfurter Rundschau« and the »Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung«. He also did readings on independent stages in Berlin.

His first collection of short fiction, »Russendisko« (2000, Engl: »Russian Disco«, 2009) is named after an improvised dance event which he organised together with Yuriy Gurzhy in 2000 in Kaffee Burger, and which by now has achieved legendary status and still regularly takes place. Its celebrated mixture of polka-punk, klezmer-ska and balalaika-rock illustrate Kaminer's artistic creed of fun-oriented, nostalgic anarchy. »Never invent anything, just trust in life« is the guiding principle of the stories in »Russendisko«, which use precise observation, irony and a benevolent attitude to distill gems of absurdity from daily life. The book swiftly became a best-seller and has by now been translated English, French, various Eastern European languages and Japanese, among others.

»Militärmusik« (2001, tr: Military Music) was his first novel, a humorous requiem for the old Soviet Union and the author's own childhood and youth. »Real existing socialism« is also a thematic treasure trove for his »legends and misunderstandings of the last century« »Es gab keinen Sex im Sozialismus« (2009, tr: There Was No Sex Under Socialism). The author proves that he is by now an insider, not only in general German society, but above all in individual Berlin city districts, in »Mein deutsches Dschungelbuch« (2003, tr: My German Jungle Book) and »Ich bin kein Berliner. Ein Reiseführer für faule Touristen« (2007, tr: I Am Not a Berliner. A Handbook for Lazy Tourists). His most recent book, »Meine kaukasische Schwiegermutter« (2010, tr: My Caucasian Mother-in-Law) recounts Kaminer's return to his home country and, like his earlier works, is filled with characters and situations which nimbly jump between irony, wit and realism, often acquiring surreal aspects but, thanks to Kaminer's prose, never lose their lightness.

Kaminer is one of the most popular German-language writers. He lives with his wife and their two children in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg.