23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Brittani Sonnenberg
© Hartwig Klappert

Brittani Sonnenberg

Brittani Sonnenberg was born in 1981 in Hamburg to American parents. She grew up in many places, among these Philadelphia, London, Atlanta and Minneapolis, and she spent a large part of her school time in Shanghai and Singapore. She studied English literature at Harvard University and achieved a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at the University of Michigan. As a journalist, she has worked for the »Berlin Journal« of the American Academy, »Time Magazine«, the »Cambodia Daily« among others, as well as for Associated Press in Germany, China and South-East Asia. She also writes regular articles for the series »Berlin Stories«, which was created by Anna Winger and broadcast by America’s National Public Radio. Furthermore, she has taught creative writing as a visiting lecturer at the University of Michigan, at Carelton College and most recently at the University of Hong Kong. She was a fellow of the International Center for Journalism at Berlin’s Free University in 2009/2010 in a project titled »Untangling Berlin’s Legacy of American Occupation«.Sonnenberg’s first published short story »Tierney’s Gourmet« appeared in the renowned literary magazine »Ploughshares« (winter 2003/2004), a publication released by Emerson College. Other short stories were shortlisted in the »Best American Short Stories 2004« and included in the anthology »O. Henry Prize Stories 2008«. One of these was »Taiping«, in which Sonnenberg – drawing on her travel experiences in Malaysia – writes about the dubious legacy of Western colonialism looking at the relationship between a barkeeper and his young assistant. Her debut novel »Home Leave« (2014), which takes place on several continents and across generations, is a fragmentary family chronicle that is clearly autobiographical in parts. In episodes narrated from many perspectives, Sonnenberg illustrates the story of the Kriegsteins, a family of »chronic expats« originally from Mississippi and Indiana, in which the author’s self-diagnosis is projected onto her similarly widely-travelled characters. The international corporation in which the father has an executive position dictates the locations where the story unfolds, which include Hamburg, London, Atlanta, Shanghai and Singapore. The feeling of not having a home that results is countered by a familiarity with the individual details of apparently identical transit spaces. Sonnenberg conveys very well the cosmopolitan contradiction between longing for faraway places and home sickness with a stylistic diversity which ranges from the personification of the house she grew up in to passages purely of dialogue, right up to an examination of her great-grandmother’s emigration (from the environs of Hanover to New York).She received a great deal of praise for this first work, among others from Karen Russell, Ha Jin, and Wim Wenders. Sonnenberg lives in Berlin.




Zürich/Hamburg, 2014

[Ü: Patricia Klobusiczky]