Ben Marcus

Portrait Ben Marcus
© Hartwig Klappert

Ben Marcus was born in 1967 in Chicago. In his debut »The Age of Wire and String« (1995), a Postmodern collage of often surreal short and very short stories, he already subverts and calls into question standard narrative constructs. The critics have hailed Marcus as one of the most innovative and most important literary voices of his generation.»Notable American Women« (2002) is both a family history and an elaborate play of language with novel length that also deconstructs the authority of the author. In his second novel »The Flame Alphabet« (2012) Marcus focuses his attention on the subversive power of language. Here he creates an apocalyptic scenario in which the spoken word has a toxic effect. His new book »Leaving the Sea«, a volume of stories, is set for release in 2014.

In addition to working as an author, he is also an editor (among others for the literary magazines »Fence« und »The American Reader«) and published »The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories« (2004) with texts from George Saunders, Jhumpa Lahiri, David Foster Wallace and others. In the foreword, he emphatically underlines the individuality of the authors, their diverging techniques and voices, which illustrate the diversity and the immanent striving in literature for innovation beyond the limitations of academic categorisations which these contemporary texts decidedly evade, often in a playful and subtle manner: »Stories keep mattering by re-imagining their own methods, manners, and techniques. A writer has to believe, and prove, that there are, if not new stories, then new ways of telling the old ones.« His own essays and reviews have appeared in renowned newspapers and magazines, among these »The New York Times«, »The Paris Review«, »Granta«, »The New Yorker«, »Time Magazine« and in Dave Egger’s literary magazines »McSweeney’s« and »The Believer«. His article »Why experimental fiction threatens to destroy publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and life as we know it: A correction« which appeared in »Harper’s Magazine« in 2005 caused a great deal of discussion.

Ben Marcus has received many awards, including an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Pushcart Prize several times as well as receiving a scholarship from National Endowment for the Arts and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He is a lecturer at New York’s Columbia University School of the Arts and lives in New York as well as Brooklin, Maine. This year he is a Fellow of the American Academy in Berlin.