23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Deborah Eisenberg
© Hartwig Klappert

Deborah Eisenberg

Deborah Eisenberg was born in Chicago in 1945 and grew up in the suburb of Winnetka. In 1966 she moved to New York where she studied Social Sciences at the New School for Social Research. She then had various jobs, including working as a waitress and a secretary. She began writing after meeting her partner, the playwright and actor Wallace Shawn, and made her literary début with the play »Pastorale« (1982) which was produced by the theatre group Second Stage. In the mid-eighties she published her first story, »Flotsam«, in »The New Yorker«, later the opening tale in her collection »Transactions in a Foreign Currency« (1986).
Eisenberg has published four volumes of short stories to date, raising her to the status of a master of the genre and one of the most distinguished chroniclers of modern life in the great American city. Largely through dialogue and insightful, precise depictions, she portrays the interior landscapes of American characters paralysed by inflated expectations. With a keen sense of phrasing, clichés and false self-images, she unmasks the mechanisms of self-delusion and the flight from reality, as well as the painstaking resistance against such things. However, the protagonists do not reach any full realisations or decisive insight. The title story of her volume »Under the 82nd Airborne« (1992) tells the story of a woman whose dream of being a successful actress is becoming increasingly unrealistic. After neglecting her daughter for seventeen years – who in the meantime has been living in Honduras – she arranges a meeting with her. However, a genuine rapprochement between them fails to come about.
The German translation of Eisenberg’s most recent collection of short stories, »Twilight of the Superheroes« (2006), is in progress. The tension in the work emerges from the range of attitudes that accompany the different ages of life: cynicism and hope, serenity and naiveté. »I think there are a lot of moral arguments for fiction«, Eisenberg sums up the claim of her own work. »Fiction is one the most effective ways to explore areas of mind that are extremely subtle and the areas of human experience that can’t be gotten to any other way.«
Eisenberg’s short stories have appeared in publications such as »The New Yorker«, »Bomb«, »The Yale Review« and recently »Kursbuch 163« (2006). The writer has received several grants including the Lannan Foundation Fellowship and many distinctions, among them the Whiting Writers’ Award, the Award for Literature of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, five O. Henry Awards and the Rea Award for the Short Story. Eisenberg teaches Creative Writing at the University of Virginia and lives in New York.

© internationales literaturfestival berlin


Samuel French
New York, 1982

Eine lehrreiche Geschichte
Reinbek, 1991
[Ü: Nikolaus Hanse, Sabine Hübner]
Reisen mit leichtem Gepäck

Reinbek, 1991
[Ü: Nikolaus Hansen]

Im Paradies des Regengottes
Reinbek, 1995
[Ü: Nikolaus Hansen, Sabine Hübner]

The Stories (so far) of Deborah Eisenberg
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
New York, 1997

Rosie besorgt sich eine Seele
Reinbek, 2000
[Ü: Sabine Hedinger, Antje Landshoff, Nikolaus Hansen]

Twilight of the Superheroes
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
New York, 2006