Eva Menasse

Portrait Eva Menasse
© Hartwig Klappert

Eva Menasse was born in 1970 in Vienna. She studied German language and literature as well as history and worked as a journalist for the Viennese news magazine »Profil« and as a cultural editor for the »FAZ«. In 2000, she reported for weeks on the trial of the Holocaust denier David Irving. Menasse’s first published book addressed this case and appeared under the title »Der Holocaust vor Gericht« [2000; tr: The Holocaust on Trial].

In light of Menasseʼs career as a journalist, it is not surprising that her first novel »Vienna« [2005] is marked by her journalistic experience. The author gathered the material for her novel – which tells the story of a family with half Jewish, half Christian roots in Austria in the 20th century – by interviewing her own relatives and exhaustively researching the era of World War II. The portrait of the lively family, whose anecdotal storytelling tradition masks their fear of the terrible rifts in their own history, therefore partly echoes Menasse’s own family. Her successful début novel, which has been translated into many languages, was followed by the short fiction collection »Lässliche Todsünden« [2009; tr: Forgivable Deadly Sins] with seven stories about modern transgressions. In 2013 she published her novel »Quasikristalle« [tr: Quasicrystals], in which she shows the biography of a woman in her various aspects, portraying her as mother and daughter, friend, tenant and patient, as a fleeting acquaintance and disloyal wife and at the same time asking questions about perception and truth: »It is a pleasure to read a book that is so at home in the now« [»Der Spiegel«]. Her story collection »Tiere für Fortgeschrittene« [2017, tr: Advanced Studies in Animals] comprises eight texts about the everyday problems of impressively »normal« heroes. In her novel »Dunkelblum« [2021], an eerily comic epic about wounds in the landscape and the souls of people, Eva Menasse tells the story of a small Austrian town at the centre of world politics: in the late summer days of 1989, a skeleton is unearthed in a meadow on the outskirts of town, and a young woman disappears. As if in a nightmare, traces of the old crime emerge and confront the residents of Dunkelblum with a past they had long thought had been put to rest.

Eva Menasse also wrote two children’s books in the late 1990s together with her brother Robert and her sister-in-law Elisabeth Menasse, »Die letzte Märchenprinzessin« [1997, tr: The Last Fairytale Princess] and »Der mächtigste Mann« [1998, tr: The Most Powerful Man]. The author has received many awards: She was awarded the Gerty Spies Prize for Literature, the Heinrich Böll Prize, the Friedrich Hölderlin Prize, the Jonathan Swift Prize, and the Austrian Book Prize. She was also a writer-in-residence in Mainz and a fellow at the Villa Massimo in Rome. Eva Menasse is also increasingly active as an essayist, for which she received the Ludwig Börne Prize in 2019. She lives in Berlin and is a founding member and, together with Deniz Yücel, spokesperson for PEN Berlin, which was launched in 2022.

Date: 2022