Richard Ford  [ USA ]

Biography

Richard Ford Portrait
© Birgit Kleber / Berlin Verlag

Guest 2002.

Bibliography

Der Sportreporter
Rowohlt
Reinbek, 1989
Übersetzung: Hans Hermann

Ein Stück meines Herzens
Fischer
Frankfurt/Main, 1989
Übersetzung: Martin Hielscher

Verdammtes Glück
Rowohlt
Reinbek, 1989
Übersetzung: Wolfgang Determann

Der Frauenheld
Fischer
Frankfurt/Main, 1994
Übersetzung: Martin Hielscher

Eifersüchtig
Berlin Verlag
Berlin, 1995
Übersetzung: Fredeke Arnim

Unabhängigkeitstag
Berlin Verlag
Berlin, 1995
Übersetzung: Fredeke Arnim

Abendländer
Berlin Verlag
Berlin, 1998
Übersetzung: Fredeke Arnim

Eine Vielzahl von Sünden
Berlin Verlag
Berlin, 2002
Übersetzung: Frank Heibert

The Lay of the Land
Knopf
New York, 2006

Übersetzer: Fredeke Arnim, Wolfgang Determann, Harold Goland, Frank Heibert, Hans Hermann, Martin Hielscher

For Richard Ford , places are important.  Each one of his stories is precisely located.  Often at the beginning a house-move is seen as a decisive event in the lives of his characters.  A place like Great Falls in Montana where people have just arrived as in the novel 'Wildlife' (1991) or a place from which people move away as in the short narrative 'Jealous' (1995).

Ford himself does not live in one place but in three different places, together with is wife who has a PhD in town planning and to whom all his books are dedicated.  They live alternately in New Orleans, Chinook, a small town in Montana, and a little place in the country near Jackson, where Ford retreats to write.  This constant moving perhaps influences, too, his particular perception of the places and landscapes he describes: "The reader is meant to see what I see".
Ford comes from the southern states, from Jackson, Mississippi, where he was born in 1944.  He studied Literature, worked as a teacher and held seminars on 'Creative Writing' at various universities. In between, he also earned money as a sports reporter, a job he would have continued if one of the newspapers for which he wrote had not gone bankrupt and the other had given him a permanent job.  These experiences inspired him to write his novel of the same name 'The Sportswriter' (1989), which helped him achieve a breakthrough in America.  This novel has its setting in New Jersey.  Not wanting to be regarded as a typical southern states author, Ford decided to set his novels in literary areas less well settled in as in the barren north of Montana or on the east coast of New Jersey. Or in Paris where he expands the theme of the American in that city of love, but does not continue the myth.  In the short narrative 'Occidentals' (1997) a couple, quite different in character do not, contrary to our expectations, experience a beautiful day in Paris but a city in winter, desolate and wet.  The narrative ends, not really surprisingly, with a suicide.  Like other novels and short stories, 'Occidentals' is characterised by a dense atmosphere and short dialogues in which the characters speak past each other.

Laconically and tersely narrated, the novel shows the emotions of the characters, their inner brittleness and longings which Ford developes sympathetically and with a feel for psychological insight.  Ford, who was honoured with the 'Pulitzer-Prize' and the 'P.E.N./Faulkner Award' for his novel 'Independence Day' can quite rightly be regarded as "The Great American Novelist" in the tradition of Saul Bellow or John Updike.  At the centre of his narratives there are always people from the American middle-class on whose lives a light is suddenly shone.  As in 'Jealous', the story is often told from a teenager's perspective, an adolesent whose childhood is suddenly a thing of the past.  The uncertainty and vulnerability, the state of not-yet-knowing and yet the inkling, of how a person's life does function are themes which Ford brilliantly captures in language.  At the end there is less the understanding rather the knowledge that love in life is what lasts even though it is not really understood why. In 2006, Richard Ford completed his trilogy - that includes also "The Sportswriter" and "Independance Day" - with his novel "The Lay of the Land". It was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

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