Jenny Erpenbeck

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Jenny Erpenbeck
Erpenbeck in 2018
Erpenbeck in 2018
Born (1967-03-12) 12 March 1967 (age 55)
East Berlin, East Germany

Jenny Erpenbeck (born 12 March 1967)[1] is a German writer and opera director, recipient of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.[2]


Born in East Berlin,[3] Erpenbeck is the daughter of the physicist, philosopher and writer John Erpenbeck and the Arabic translator Doris Kilias.[4] Her grandparents are the authors Fritz Erpenbeck and Hedda Zinner.[5] In Berlin she attended an Advanced High School, where she graduated in 1985. She then completed a two-year apprenticeship as a bookbinder before working at several theaters as props and wardrobe supervisor.

From 1988 to 1990 Erpenbeck studied theatre at the Humboldt University of Berlin. In 1990 she changed her studies to Music Theater Director (studying with, among others, Ruth Berghaus, Heiner Müller and Peter Konwitschny) at the Hanns Eisler Music Conservatory. After the successful completion of her studies in 1994, with a production of Béla Bartók's opera Duke Bluebeard's Castle in her parish church and in the Kunsthaus Tacheles, she spent some time at first as an assistant director at the opera house in Graz, where in 1997 she did her own productions of Schoenberg's Erwartung, Bartók's Duke Bluebeard's Castle and a world premiere of her own piece Cats Have Seven Lives. As a freelance director, she directed in 1998 different opera houses in Germany and Austria, including Monteverdi's L'Orfeo in Aachen, Acis and Galatea at the Berlin State Opera and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Zaide in Nuremberg/Erlangen.

In the 1990s Erpenbeck started a writing career in addition to her directing. She is author of narrative prose and plays: her debut novella in 1999, Geschichte vom alten Kind (The Old Child); in 2001, her collection of stories Tand (Trinkets); in 2004, the novella Wörterbuch (The Book of Words); and in 2008, the novel Heimsuchung (Visitation). In 2007, Erpenbeck took over a biweekly column by Nicole Krauss in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. In 2015 the English translation of her novel Aller Tage Abend (The End of Days) won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

Erpenbeck's works have been translated into Danish, English, French, Greek, Hebrew, Dutch, Swedish, Slovene, Spanish, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Arabic, Estonian and Finnish.

Erpenbeck lives in Berlin with her husband, conductor Wolfgang Bozic, and her son.[1]



  • Heimsuchung (2008). Visitation, trans. Susan Bernofsky (New Directions, 2010; Portobello, 2011).
  • Aller Tage Abend (2012). The End of Days, trans. Susan Bernofsky (New Directions, 2014; Portobello, 2015).
  • Gehen, ging, gegangen (2015). Go, Went, Gone, trans. Susan Bernofsky (New Directions/Portobello, 2017).
  • Kairos (2021). Trans. Michael Hofmann (Granta/New Directions, 2023).

Novellas and short story collections[edit]

  • Geschichte vom alten Kind (1999). The Old Child, trans. Susan Bernofsky.
    • Published with five stories from Tand as The Old Child and Other Stories (New Directions, 2005), and in The Old Child and The Book of Words (Portobello, 2008).
  • Tand (2001). Trinkets. Short stories.
  • Wörterbuch (2004). The Book of Words, trans. Susan Bernofsky (New Directions/Portobello, 2007), and in The Old Child and The Book of Words (Portobello, 2008).


  • Katzen haben sieben Leben (2000). Cats Have Seven Lives.
  • Leibesübungen für eine Sünderin (2003). Physical Exercises for a Sinner.
  • Schmutzige Nacht (2015)
  • Lot (2017)


  • Dinge, die verschwinden (2009). Things That Are Disappearing.
  • Kein Roman: Texte 1992 bis 2018 (2018). Not a Novel: A Memoir in Pieces, trans. Kurt Beals (New Directions/Granta, 2020).


Awards and honors[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bartel, Heike and Elizabeth Boa (eds.) Pushing at Boundaries: Approaches to Contemporary German Women Writers from Karen Duve to Jenny Erpenbeck. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006. ISBN 978-90-420-2051-1. Amsterdam
  • Wiebke, Eden. "To Express with Words, was Always the Next," in No Fear of Big Emotions. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, 2003. ISBN 3-596-15474-X, pp. 13–32 (Jenny Erpenbeck interview)


  1. ^ a b "Jenny Erpenbeck: Vom Ausgelieferstein" (in German). Freiburger Nachrichten. 18 April 2016. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  2. ^ "Jenny Erpenbeck wins Independent foreign fiction prize". Guardian. 27 May 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  3. ^ "Jenny Erpenbeck". New Books in German. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
  4. ^ "Jenny Erpenbeck: Vom Ausgelieferstein". Freiburger Nachrichten. 18 April 2016. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  5. ^ "Und immer wieder der Tod". Die Zeit. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  6. ^ Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis (2 July 2001). "Die AutorInnen bei den Tagen der deutschsprachigen Literatur 2001". ORF Kärnten (in German). Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  7. ^ Inselschreiber. "Jenny Erpenbeck : Preisträger 2006". Kunstraum-Sylt Quelle (in German). Archived from the original on 23 October 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  8. ^ "ArcelorMittal Eisenhüttenstadt - Home". Retrieved 23 November 2021.
  9. ^ "Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize 2011". Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2021.
  10. ^ Nick Clark (27 May 2015). "Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015: Jenny Erpenbeck wins with 'work of genius'". The Independent.
  11. ^ (, Deutsche Welle. "Novelist Jenny Erpenbeck wins Thomas Mann Prize | Books | DW.COM | 3 May 2016". DW.COM. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  12. ^ " Der Bundespräsident / Reisen und Termine / Ordensverleihung zum Tag der Deutschen Einheit". Retrieved 23 November 2021.
  13. ^ "100 Best Books of the 21st Century". 21 September 2019. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  14. ^ "Akademiemitglied Jenny Erpenbeck erhält Uwe-Johnson-Literaturpreis 2022 : Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur". Mainz (in German). 20 July 2022. Retrieved 21 July 2022.