Arnon Grunberg

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Arnon Grunberg
Arnon Grunberg in 2016
Arnon Grunberg in 2016
BornArnon Yasha Yves Grünberg
(1971-02-22) 22 February 1971 (age 52)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Pen nameMarek van der Jagt
GenreNovels, essays, columns
Notable worksBlue Mondays
The Man without Illness
Notable awardsAKO Literature Prize
Libris Prize
Constantijn Huygens Prize
P.C. Hooft Award

Arnon Yasha Yves Grunberg (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɑrnɔˈɲɑʃaː ˈiːf ˈxrʏmbɛr(ə)x]; born 22 February 1971) is a Dutch writer of novels, essays, and columns, as well as a journalist. He published some of his work under the heteronym Marek van der Jagt. He lives in New York. His work has been translated into 30 languages. In 2022 he received the PC Hooftprijs, a Dutch literary lifetime achievement award. His most acclaimed and successful novels are Blue Mondays and Tirza. The New York Times called the latter ‘grimly comic and unflinching (…) while not always enjoyable, it is never less than enthralling’.[1] Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described him as ‘the Dutch Philip Roth’.[2]

Early life[edit]

Grunberg was born Arnon Yasha Yves Grünberg on 22 February 1971 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He grew up in a family of Jewish immigrants, originally from Germany.[3][4] His mother was a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp.[5][6] Grunberg attended the Vossius Gymnasium in Amsterdam, but was expelled from the school in 1988.[7] Before publishing his first novel, he held various odd jobs, and tried his hand at acting in a short film by Dutch avant-garde film maker Cyrus Frisch. From 1990 to 1993, Grunberg ran his own publishing house, Kasimir, which was financially unsuccessful.[8][9]


Grunberg made his literary debut in 1994 with the novel Blue Mondays (Blauwe maandagen), which won the Anton Wachter Prize for best debut novel.[10] Critics hailed it as a "grotesque comedy, a rarity in Dutch literature."[11] In 2000, he was the first to win this debut prize again, but this time under his heteronym Marek van der Jagt, for the novel The Story of My Baldness (De geschiedenis van mijn kaalheid).[12]

The much acclaimed novel Tirza, about a father's obsessive love for his graduating daughter, was Grunberg's first novel to be made into a movie, Tirza, in 2010,[13] after winning the Dutch Libris Prize and the Belgian Golden Owl in 2007.[14] This book has been translated into fourteen languages and has received critical acclaim in the New York Times, LA Times and Le Figaro, among others. A 2010 national poll of literary critics, academics and writers held by the magazine De Groene Amsterdammer elected Tirza as the "most important novel of the 21st century," over Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones and Ian McEwan's Saturday. In 2009, Grunberg won the Constantijn Huygens Prize for his entire body of work[15] and in 2011 he received the Frans Kellendonk-prijs.[16]

In September 2008, Grunberg published his seventh novel, Onze Oom (Our Uncle). The story is about a girl who is like a dead person among the living and a major who tries to overcome his shame by leading an insurgent army. Grunberg incorporated his experiences in the army in Afghanistan into this book. Since then, Grunberg has published various novels, including Skin and Hair in 2010 (Huid en Haar), The Man without Illness (De Man Zonder Ziekte) in 2012 and Birthmarks (Moedervlekken) in 2016, which were translated into French and German, among other languages. These books also received considerable acclaim. Le Monde called The Man without Illness 'a wonderful gateway to the work of Arnon Grunberg, [who is] one of the most fascinating writers of his generation'. His work is also available in Portugal, Hungary, Israel, Turkey and Brazil.

Journalism and essays[edit]

In addition to his many novels, he has written newspaper and magazine columns, essays, poetry, scenarios and plays. Through his essays, opinion articles and lectures, Arnon Grunberg has made a major contribution to the public debate in international media about issues such as migration policy, discrimination, racism and human trafficking. His essays have appeared in The New York Times,[17] Le Monde, Liberération, The Times, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Courrier International, Revista Contexto and Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Grunberg is also known for his literary journalism and periods of complete immersion into diverse aspects of society.[18] He has been embedded with Dutch troops in Afghanistan and Iraq,[19] and visited Guantánamo Bay. He has spent time with and written about masseurs at a Romanian resort, patients in a Belgian psychiatric ward, dining-car waiters on a Swiss train, and an ordinary Dutch family on vacation. In 2009 his reports were published in a book called Chambermaids and Soldiers (Kamermeisjes en Soldaten), followed by Slaughters and Psychiatrists (Slachters en Psychiaters) in 2021. The latter contains his reports from 2009 until 2020. Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant praised the book: “Grunberg can not only sketch an unknown world with a few sharp strokes of the pen, but also bring it to vidid life."[20]

Grunberg states he writes because he wants to know ‘how people do something like living their life’: "Everything is field research: friendship, sex, love, and work. It is only by writing about it that you can escape from it."

Academic and scientific research[edit]

In 2008 Grunberg became a writer-in-residence and guest lecturer at the Leiden University and Wageningen University and Research Centre. In October 2014, he became an honorary fellow at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Amsterdam. His lectures focused on issues related to privacy and surveillance, and together with his students he developed a video game.[21] The lecture series coincided with an exhibit on the author's life and work, the materials for which were sourced from his own literary archives, which were on loan to the university library's Special Collections department, making them a unique, "living" archive.[22]

Arnon Grunberg in 2015

In an attempt to understand the creative process, Grunberg wrote his latest novel Het Bestand (which, in Dutch, can refer to both a computer file and a truce) while scientists were measuring his brain activity, emotions, and subjective feelings. Using screen capture and physiological measurements such as EEG, GSR and ECG, and subjective questionnaires for the author, scientists correlated the writing of emotionally charged passages with physiological activity. The second stage of the experiment took place in October and November 2015 in the GrunbergLab at the University of Amsterdam, where volunteers' brain activity was measured while they were reading the novel in a controlled environment.[23][24][25]


Selected bibliography[edit]

  • (1994) Blauwe maandagen; English translation: Blue Mondays (1997)
  • (1997) Figuranten; English translation: Silent Extras (2001)
  • (1998) De heilige Antonio (The Saint of the Impossible)
  • (2000) Fantoompijn; English translation: Phantom Pain (2004)
  • (2000) De geschiedenis van mijn kaalheid as Marek van der Jagt; English translation: The Story of My Baldness (2004)
  • (2001) De Mensheid zij geprezen, Lof der Zotheid 2001 (Praised be Mankind, Praise of Folly 2001)
  • (2002) Gstaad 95–98 as Marek van der Jagt
  • (2003) De asielzoeker (The Asylum Seeker)
  • (2004) De joodse messias; English translation: The Jewish Messiah (2008)
  • (2006) Tirza; English translation: Tirza (2013)
  • (2008) Onze oom (Our Uncle)
  • (2010) Huid en Haar (Tooth and Nail)
  • (2012) De man zonder ziekte (The Man Without Illness)
  • (2015) Het bestand (The Cache)
  • (2016) Moedervlekken (Birthmarks)
  • (2018) Goede Mannen
  • (2020) Bezette Gebieden
  • (2021) De dood in Taormina
  • (2001) Amuse-Gueule; English translation: Amuse-Bouche (2008)
  • (2004) Grunberg rond de wereld (Grunberg Around the World)
  • (2009) Kamermeisjes & Soldaten: Arnon Grunberg onder de mensen (Chambermaids & Soldiers: Arnon Grunberg Among the People)
  • (2013) Apocalyps
  • (1998) Troost van de slapstick (The Comfort of Slapstick)
  • (2001) Monogaam (Monogamous), as Marek van der Jagt
  • (2001) Otto Weininger Of bestaat de jood? (Otto Weininger or Does the Jew Exist?), as Marek van der Jagt
  • (2013) Buster Keaton lacht nooit (Buster Keaton Never Laughs)
  • (2013) Why the Dutch Love Black Pete
  • (1998) Het 14e kippetje (The 14th Chicken)
  • (1998) You are also very attractive when you are dead
  • (2005) De Asielzoeker (The Asylum Seeker), adapted by Koen Tachelet
  • (2015) Hoppla, wir sterben, premiere 29. April 2015, Münchner Kammerspiele


  1. ^ Hutchins, Scott (10 May 2013). "The Graduate". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  2. ^ "F.A.Z.-Archiv". Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  3. ^ G.J. van Bork, "Grunberg, Arnon" (in Dutch), Schrijvers en dichters. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  4. ^ Arnon Grunberg, "Ditch the King. Hire an Actor.", The New York Times, 2013.
  5. ^ "Paul Rosenmöller en Arnon Grunberg Archived 10 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine" (in Dutch), IKON. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  6. ^ Roderick Nieuwenhuis, "Moeder Arnon Grunberg overleden" (in Dutch), NRC Handelsblad, 2015.
  7. ^ "Biografie Archived 22 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine" (in Dutch), Archived 31 August 2018 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  8. ^ Marek Hłasko – Ik zal jullie over Esther vertellen (in Dutch), Website Arnon Grunberg. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  9. ^ "Grunberg wil uitgeverij oprichten" (in Dutch), de Volkskrant, 2005. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  10. ^ a b Blauwe maandagen Archived 19 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine (in Dutch).
  11. ^ "Opium TV : Arnon Grunberg" (in Dutch), NRC Handelsblad, 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  12. ^ a b Karin de Mik, "'Van der Jagt is pseudoniem van Grunberg'" (in Dutch), NRC Handelsblad, 2000. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  13. ^ Hutchins, Scott (10 May 2013). "The Graduate". The New York Times.
  14. ^ a b c Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature
  15. ^ a b "Huygens-prijs 2009 voor Arnon Grunberg" (in Dutch), NRC Handelsblad, 2009. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  16. ^ Lezing & Prijs, Frans Kellendonk Fonds. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  17. ^ Grunberg, Arnon (4 December 2013). "Opinion | Why the Dutch Love Black Pete". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  18. ^ "Kamermeisjes en soldaten – Arnon Grunberg" (in Dutch), Literair Nederland. Retrieved 15 Juni 2016.
  19. ^ "Grunberg 'embedded' naar Irak" (in Dutch), Trouw, 2008. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  20. ^ Hovius, Ranne (19 February 2021). "Met een paar rake pennestreken maakt Grunberg een onbekende wereld invoelbaar ★★★★☆". de Volkskrant (in Dutch). Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  21. ^ Dirk Wolthekker, "Arnon Grunberg honorary fellow aan de UvA" (in Dutch), Folia, 2014.
  22. ^ " | Nieuws / Archief Arnon Grunberg naar Bijzondere Collecties". Archived from the original on 19 March 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  23. ^ What is creativity?, Noldus.
  24. ^ "Het bijzondere experiment van Arnon Grunberg! - Het bestand". Archived from the original on 11 March 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  25. ^ Jennifer Schuessler, "Wired: Putting a Writer and Readers to a Test", The New York Times, 2013.
  26. ^ a b c d (in Dutch) G.J. van Bork, "Grunberg, Arnon", Schrijvers en dichters, 2005. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  27. ^ "Arnon Grunberg wint Gouden Ganzenveer: 'Ongekend productief en steeds unieker'". / De Volkskrant. 9 January 2017. Retrieved 5 February 2023.
  28. ^ "Schrijver Arnon Grunberg wint P.C. Hooftprijs". / RTL Nieuws. 13 December 2021. Retrieved 5 February 2023.
  29. ^ "Arnon Grunberg wint Johannes Vermeer Prijs 2022". / Nederlandse Omroep Stichting. 27 September 2022. Retrieved 5 February 2023.

External links[edit]

Media related to Arnon Grunberg at Wikimedia Commons