Ellen Hinsey

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Ellen Hinsey
Born 1960
Boston, Massachusetts
Occupation Writer, professor
Education Tufts University, Université de Paris VII
Notable awards Berlin Prize Fellowship, Lannan Foundation Award, DAAD Berliner Künstlerprogramm Fellow

Ellen Hinsey (born 1960 in Boston) is an American writer.


Hinsey's work is concerned with history and ethics. Her first-hand accounts and analyses of the impact of the 2012 Russian presidential elections, the 2010 Polish presidential plane crash, Hungarian politics, Václav Havel's ethical legacy and post-1989 German reconstruction have been published in The New England Review.[1] A selection of these essays will be included in her book Mastering the Past: Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe and the Rise of Illiberalism.

Hinsey’s first book, Cities of Memory, draws on her experiences at the Berlin Wall on the weekend of November 9, 1989, as well as in Prague during the Velvet Revolution.[2] The book received the Yale Series Award and was published by Yale University Press in 1996. Her second book, The White Fire of Time (Wesleyan University Press, 2002 / Bloodaxe Books, 2003), written after a family tragedy, is an exploration of ethics and renewal.

Beginning in February 2002, she traveled to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague to listen to witness sessions.[3] Her third book, Update on the Descent, addressed this experience, and is an anatomy of political violence. The book was a finalist for the National Poetry Series. It was published in 2009 by Notre Dame University Press and Bloodaxe Books and has been called "an urgent, probing book."[4] Her poetry, essays and translations have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Die Welt, The Irish Times, The New England Review, The Paris Review and Poetry Review (UK) among other publications.

Hinsey is the editor and co-translator of The Junction: Selected Poems of Tomas Venclova (Bloodaxe Books, 2008). Her memoir collaboration with Venclova, Magnetic North: Conversations with Tomas Venclova, will appear in German, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Polish editions. Hinsey has translated The Secret Piano, by Zhu Xiao-Mei, an account of growing up under the Cultural Revolution (Amazon Crossing, 2012) and Wild Harmonies, by Hélène Grimaud (Riverhead/Penguin Books, 2005).


Ellen Hinsey was born in 1960 in Boston, Massachusetts. For the last two decades she has lived in Europe. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Tufts University and a graduate degree from Université de Paris VII. She has taught at the French graduate school the Ecole Polytechnique and currently teaches at Skidmore College’s Paris program.

Honors and awards[edit]

  • 2015 DAAD Berliner Künstlerprogramm Fellow
  • 2013 Pushcart Prize nomination for "The New Opposition in Hungary"
  • 2012 Pushcart Prize nomination for "Death in the Forest"
  • 2007 The Stover Memorial Award / The Southwest Review
  • 2001 Berlin Prize Fellowship / The American Academy in Berlin
  • 2001 The Union League Civic and Arts Poetry Prize / Poetry
  • 1998 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award
  • 1996 The Yale Younger Poets Prize
  • Lannan Foundation Award



  • "Mastering the Past: Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe and the Rise of Illiberalism" (Telos Press, 2017)
  • Magnetic North: Conversations with Tomas Venclova
Foreign language editions
- Der magnetische Norden (German edition: Suhrkamp, 2016)
- Nelyginant šiaurė magnetą (Lithuanian edition: Apostrofa, 2017)
- магнітну північ (Ukrainian edition: Dukh i Litera, 2017)
  • Update on the Descent (Notre Dame University Press & Bloodaxe Books, 2009)
- Vorbereitung auf den Abstieg (German edition: Matthes & Seitz, 2017)
  • The White Fire of Time (Wesleyan University Press, 2002 / Bloodaxe Books, 2003)
  • Cities of Memory (Yale University Press, 1996)
  • The Junction: Selected Poems of Tomas Venclova, editor and co-translator, (Bloodaxe Books, 2009)
  • The Secret Piano: From Mao's Labor Camps to Bach's Goldberg Variations, by Zhu Xiao-Mei, translation by Ellen Hinsey (AmazonCrossing, 2012)
  • Wild Harmonies, by Hélène Grimaud, translation by Ellen Hinsey (Riverhead Press, 2006)

Critical studies of Hinsey[edit]

  • 2011: Poetic Memory: The Forgotten Self in Plath, Howe, Hinsey, and Glück by Uta Gosmann, ISBN 978-1611470369
  • 2012: (Un)concealing the Hedgehog by Paulina Ambrozy, ISBN 978-8323224839
  • 2008: Another Language: Poetic Experiments in Britain and North America by Kornelia Freitag (ed.), ISBN 978-3825812102


  1. ^ "Death in the Forest", New England Review, Volume 32, Number 1 / 2011
  2. ^ http://pionline.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/an-interview-with-ellen-hinsey-2009/
  3. ^ http://pionline.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/an-interview-with-ellen-hinsey-2009/
  4. ^ Wright, Jeffery Cyphers, "Rapid Transit", in The Brooklyn Rail, June 2010

External links[edit]