Anne Michaels was born in Toronto in 1958. She studied English at the university there and today teaches Creative Writing at the same academic institution. On the side she composes musical scores for theatre and takes an interest in painting.
Michaels first emerged as a poet. She received the Norma Epstein Award for Poetry in 1980, six years before her first volume of poems, »The Weight of Oranges« (1986), was published, which then went on to win the Commonwealth Prize for the Americas. It appeared in 1997 in a double edition together with her next work, »Miner’s Pond« (1991) which also won an award. The most recently published collection, »Poems« (2000), also contained her third volume of poetry, »Skin Divers« (1999).
A central theme in her work is love in its various forms, as well as love’s healing power, whereas language is presented as singular in its capacity to describe loss and pain and thus to make memory possible. Michaels’s poems are rich in autobiographical echoes and were initially particularly personal in content. Later they increasingly featured foreign slants, for example those of the historical figures of Alfred Döblin, Johannes Kepler, Karen Blixen, Anna Achmatova or Marie Curie. The second person »you« form dominates in her atmospheric free verse that contains haunting, often scientific, metaphors and elements of contemplative poetry.
Alongside her poems Michaels has published the compelling and sensational novel »Fugitive Pieces« (1996), which takes the risk of focusing on the plight of the Jews – still lingering to this day – during World War II: »When I started the book, I didn’t know whether in fact I would come out the other side with any belief at all. And that was a big risk. Maybe the book also took a long time to write because I was determined to come out the other side with a faith that had been earned through what I had found out and not some faith that’s applied or a grid over events.« The novel tells the story of the relationship between a Jewish man and the various people through whom he is able to piece together the »fugitive pieces« of his life. After his death his steps are retraced by a young man who, the son of a Holocaust survivor, must deal with the cataclysmic legacy of horror not part of his own direct experience.
The novel became a bestseller and was translated into over thirty languages and awarded a large number of prizes, among them the renowned British Orange Prize as well as the Lannan Literary Fiction Award, the Trillium Award, the Guardian Fiction Award and the Italian Literary Prize Giuseppe Acerbi. The »New York Times« selected it as a notable book of the year. It has also been dramatised and is available as an audio book in German. A film version is currently underway, based on a script by Anne Michaels and director Jeremy Podeswa. The author lives in Toronto.
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