Born in Wels, Upper Austria Ransmayr grew up in Roitham near Gmunden and the Traunsee. From 1972 to 1978 he studied philosophy and ethnology in Vienna. He worked there as cultural editor for the newspaper Extrablatt from 1978 to 1982, also publishing articles and essays in GEO, TransAtlantik and Merian. After his novel Die letzte Welt was published in 1988 he did extensive traveling in Ireland, Asia, North and South America. In 1994 he moved to West Cork, Ireland, as a friend offered him to lease a splendid house at the Atlantic coast for a very affordable rent. In 1997 Ransmayr read his short story Die dritte Luft oder Eine Bühne am Meer, written for this occasion, as keynote speech for the Salzburg Festival. After his marriage in the Spring of 2006 Ransmayr returned to live in Vienna.