23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Carla Guelfenbein
© Hartwig Klappert

Carla Guelfenbein

Carla Guelfenbein was born in 1959 in Santiago de Chile. Together with her parents, she went into exile in England in 1976, as her politically-committed family came under increasing pressure from Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship. The author studied Biology at the University of Essex and Design at St. Martin’s School of Art. She returned to Chile in 1987, where she worked as a designer for various advertising agencies and was responsible for the Art and Fashion departments at »Elle« magazine.

Her first novel »El revés del alma« (tr: The Reverse of the Soul) was published in 2003. Ana, the main character, is a Chilean woman living in London, a famous photographer who returns to her home after more than two decades abroad. She meets her older cousin and his wife and develops a special relationship with Daniela, their bulimic daughter. Guelfenbein’s successful début is sensitive in its portrayal of the needs, wishes and fears of the characters, revealing the impressions left by the various surrounding social and cultural contexts.

The second novel »La mujer de mi vida« (2005, tr: The Woman of My Life) deals with the friendship between the British Theo and the exiled Chileans, Antonio and Clara, culminating in a love triangle in London in the 1980s. After fifteen years of silence, the three meet again and tentatively approach their painful pasts, tainted by shame and betrayal. The skillfully-constructed novel was a bestseller, named as »Book of the Year« in Chile, and has been translated into fifteen languages. It stands out for the precision of its language and the finely-detailed depiction of its characters. »I am interested in the friction between the characters and their respective surroundings, and how the characters change with each of these contacts«, says the author.

Guelfenbein’s most recent book was her equally well-received third novel, »El resto es silencio« (2008, tr: The Rest of Silence). 12-year-old Tommy, who has a heart condition, learns during a family celebration that his mother committed suicide and wasn’t, as he had been told, killed in an accident. While the young loner hunts for the buried truth, his father, a successful surgeon, and his second wife Alma struggle with poor communication and the burden of the unspoken. The novel reveals, step by step, the family’s secrets, and depicts with great empathy and from shifting perspectives the characters’ moods and emotional states.

Guelfenbein writes for various Chilean newspapers and also for the cultural pages of the Spanish daily paper »ABC«. She lives in Santiago de Chile.


El revés del alma


Santiago de Chile, 2002

Die Frau unseres Lebens


Frankfurt/Main, 2008

[Ü: Thomas Brovot]

Der Rest ist Schweigen

S. Fischer

Frankfurt/Main, 2010

[Ü: Svenja Becker]