Arnon Grünberg

Portrait Arnon Grünberg
© Hartwig Klappert

Arnon Grunberg was born in 1971 in Amsterdam. He comes from a German-Jewish family. He grew up in Amsterdam and got kicked out of high school when he was seventeen. He started his own publishing company and debuted at age 23 with the novel »Blauwe maandagen« (1994; Eng. »Blue Mondays«, 1997). This tragic slapstick comedy depicts the world of prostitution, but also the emotional world of the second generation of Holocaust survivors. It proved to be an instant success and earned him the renowned Anton Wachter prize. His two subsequent novels were also very successful, receiving acclaim from both readers and critics.

Grunberg has also written several plays and essays, but once again it was one of his novels – »Fantoompijn« (2000; Eng. »Phantom Pain«, 2003) – that won him his next prestigious literary award, the AKO prize, the Dutch equivalent of the Booker Prize. A specialist in intricate love stories and grotesque farces, he plays with clichés, but behind the satire he always describes the fragile emotional world of his characters, inviting readers on a veritable roller coaster ride of emotions. »The wit and sardonic intelligence that shine through Arnon Grunberg’s prose make it a continual pleasure to read« (J. M. Coetzee). He has also written several books under the pseudonym Marek van der Jagt, among these the novel »De geschiedenis van mijn kaalheid« (2000; Eng. »The Story of my Baldness«, 2004), for which he won the Anton Wachter Prize, a prize for the best debut novel, for the second time. The multiple award-winning novel »Tirza« (2006; Eng. 2013) tells of a father-daughter drama. The protagonist, Jörgen Hofmeester, an editor who leads a comfortable life, feels that he has passed his prime as a father and no longer has a role to play – and therefore drops the role. Grunberg’s fifteenth novel, »Bezette gebieden«, (2020; tr: Occupied Territories), presents a tragicomic love story full of unexpected twists. Psychiatrist Otto Kadoke, already known to Grunberg readers from the novel »Moedervlekken« (2016; tr: Birthmarks), travels to visit a distant relative in the West Bank. Anat lives there as a staunch Zionist, and Otto, an atheist and anti-Zionist, ends up falling in love with her. Against the backdrop of the trauma of World War II, the novel raises questions about the meaning of freedom, justice, and love.

Arnon Grunberg also writes articles and reportages for various magazines; for this purpose, he traveled to the Dutch troops stationed in Afghanistan and to the US Army in Iraq, among other places. For his complete body of work, he received the Constantijn Huygens-prijs in 2009 and the Frans Kellendonk-prijs in 2010. His books have been translated into nearly thirty languages. Arnon Grunberg lives in New York.