Ernest Wichner was born in 1952 in Zăbrani in the Banat region of Romania. After graduating from the Nikolaus Lenau High School in Timişoara he studied German and Romanian literature at the West University of Timișoara. He was a founding member of the Banat Action Group of writers, which was kept under surveillance by the Securitate.In 1975 he emigrated to West Berlin, where he continued his studies of German literature and political science at the Freie Universität. After many years of working for the Literaturhaus Berlin, he served as its director from 2003 to 2017 and designed exhibitions on, among others, Varlam Shalamov, Bohumil Hrabal, and most recently on the unpublished correspondence between Hermann Hesse and his youngest son.
Wichner’s literary works include poetry and essay collections as well as numerous adaptations and translations of Romanian authors whose (re)discovery he often personally encouraged, including M. Blecher, Daniel Bănulescu, Nora Iuga, Varujan Vosganian and Mircea Cărtărescu. He is also planning to publish a canon anthology of Romanian literature. Wichner’s début »Steinsuppe« (1988; tr: Stone Soup) offers a wide range of poetic styles with occasionally surreal and Dadaist elements, while the intertextual embedding of fragments and anecdotes about, for instance Oskar Pastior, George Trakl, or Tristan Tzara, is always part of a more in-depth reflection on language and self. »Alte Bilder« (2001; tr: Old Pictures) is a collection of fragmented stories inspired by walks through rummage sales in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and uses artefacts found by chance to create a new imaginative and allegorical exploration of memory. The 2003 collections »Rückseite der Gesten« (tr: Back of the Gesture) and »Die Einzahl der Wolken« (tr: The Singular of the Clouds) also drill deep into long-spilled milk with delicate humor yet avant-garde momentum. The poems in »bin ganz wie aufgesperrt« (2010; tr: am just as if unlocked) are not just full of refined references that bring together all different kinds of literary trends; In »Desparates Berlin der Zeit 1920« Wichner also creates a poetic treasure in which he converts a note, found in the Marbach literary archives, from Franz Hessel into a two-stanza verse.
In 2005, Wichner was awarded the city of Münster’s International Poetry Prize. His translation of Cătălin Mihuleacs »Oxenberg & Bernstein« (2018) about the pogrom of June 29, 1941 in the eastern Romanian town of Iaşi was nominated for the Leipzig Book Fair Prize. Wichner lives in Berlin.