23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Elena Poniatowska
© Felipe Haro Poniatowski

Elena Poniatowska

Elena Poniatowska was born in Paris in 1932 to a Polish nobleman and a Mexican woman. In 1941, the family fled to Mexico to escape the Second World War. She began to write newspaper reports at the age of twenty-one. Her journalistic and literary work deals primarily with social and political issues, with a particular focus on marginalized population groups, and describes social events and developments from their perspective.

Elena Poniatowska has published over forty books, spanning various genres. Again and again she looks at life in Mexico, reports on oppression and military brutality as well as corruption in government circles, details natural disasters, and highlights the everyday life of the working class. The »Neue Zürcher Zeitung« has described her by saying that »She looks the rich and powerful straight in the eye and makes herself the voice of those who have no voice in the country. Poniatowska is a chronicler and fighter against obliviousness«. Her report on the Tlatelolco massacre, »La noche de Tlatelolco« (1971; tr: The Night of Tlatelolco), made Poniatowska known far beyond the borders of Mexico. At the height of the student protests, several hundred demonstrators were shot by the military in Mexico City on October 2, 1968. The book compiles interviews with eyewitnesses, survivors, and relatives, as well as photos, police documents, and newspaper clippings. A number of her books have been translated Into German, including »Querido Diego, te abraza Quiela« (1978; Ger. »Lieber Diego«, 1988), a collection of fictional letters by Russian painter Angelina Beloff to her former lover Diego Rivera, and the novel »Tinísima« (1992; Ger. »Tinissima«, 1996), about the life of actress, photographer, and revolutionary Tina Modotti. Her most recent publication to appear in German translation, »Leonora« (2011; Ger. »Frau des Windes«, 2012), is a novel about the artist Leonora Carrington.

Elena Poniatowska has an honorary doctorate from the universities of La Sorbonne, New York’s Columbia University, the UNAM, the New School of Social Research in NYU, Manhattanville College in New York, Middlebury College, University of Florida in Miami. In 2013 she was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the most important literary award in the Spanish-speaking world. She lives in Chimalistac, a district of Mexico City.


Watch the interview of Elena Poniatowska and Michi Strausfeld at the 20th ilb on our YouTube-Channel: https://youtu.be/Ot3yjIAxri4


La noche de Tlatelolco

Editorial Era

Mexiko-Stadt, 1971

Lieber Diego


Frankfurt a. M., 1988 [Ü: Astrid Schmitt]



Frankfurt a. M., 1996 [Ü: Christiane Barckhausen-Canale]

Frau des Windes


Berlin, 2012 [Ü: Maria Hoffmann-Dartevelle]