Eliot Weinberger

Portrait Eliot Weinberger
Eliot Weinberger [© Ali Ghandtschi]

Eliot Weinberger was born in 1949 in New York City, where he lives today. He is an essayist, editor, political commentator, and translator of Spanish and Chinese. At the age of nineteen he published his first volume of translations of poems by Octavio Paz, who later won the Nobel Prize. Since 1970, he has translated numerous works [including Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges, Vicente Huidobro, Bei Dao]. In 2000, he became the first American writer to be awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle by the government of Mexico. Weinberger has edited anthologies of American and Chinese poetry and was editor of the »Calligrams« series published by the Chinese University of Hong Kong Press and the New York Review of Books, and the literary editor of the »Murty Classical Library of India«.

His first volume of essays, »Works on Paper«, appeared in 1986. Since the initial publication, sixteen subsequent volumes have been released in English, including »An Elemental Thing« [2007], »The Ghosts of Birds« [2016], and »Angels & Saints« [2020]. »Neulich in Amerika« [2020; tr: Recently in America], a collection of his texts about politics under the Bush and Trump administrations only appeared in German. »His encyclopedic curiosity expands like tentacles into even distant places and times«, was the conclusion of the jury for the Bremerhaven Jeanette Schocken Prize, awarded to Eliot Weinberger in 2021. And indeed, there seem to be no thematic boundaries. His texts examine the love lives of naked mole rats, Icelandic sagas, New Zealand birds, the wind and the stars, or people named Chang. Formally, too, he makes full use of what he sees as the unlimited potential of the genre. Thus, many of his texts resemble poems or narratives rather than traditional essays, even though they are by no means fictional. »I never make anything up«, Weinberger says, emphasizing the verifiability of all details, no matter how seemingly bizarre. He describes his political essays a »serial essay«, that is, a series of loosely connected texts that can potentially be continued indefinitely. In all of his texts, Weinberger explores nothing less than several thousand years of natural and human history. »DIE ZEIT« wrote that »Eliot Weinberger’s essays enchant the world and change our thinking … they are marvels.«

Weinberger’s poem »What I Heard about Iraq« [2005, included in the German volume »Neulich in Amerika] went on to become a widely celebrated Internet phenomenon and, with the help of the ilb, was performed in readings around the world. He writes regularly for international publications such as the »London Review of Books«. His work has been translated into over thirty languages.

Date: 2022