Judith Hermann was born in 1970 in Berlin. She studied German language and literature and worked as a waitress as well as an actress. After attending a school of journalism, she interned in New York at the German-language newspapers »New Yorker Staatszeitung« and »Aufbau«. In 1997, she received a working scholarship from the Akademie der Künste. Within a few months at the Alfred Döblin House in Wewelsfleth, she wrote the nine stories that were published in »Sommerhaus, später« (tr: Summer House, Later) in 1998. Critics and audiences alike reacted enthusiastically, confirming the assessment made by Marcel Reich-Ranicki in the »Literarischen Quartett«: »We have a new author, an outstanding author. Her success will be great.« Hermann’s stories follow in the tradition of Chekhov and Carver. Rich in atmosphere, detailed yet laconic, the author depicts everyday scenes that seamlessly develop into a plot. Michael Naumann has described Judith Hermann’s language as »spare, full of pauses, secretive almost – just as her protagonists usually prefer to act astonished. At times they embody shadowy memories of long-forgotten passions, at others idle anticipation of a future happiness that will never come.« She has been one of the few artistic personalities to have retained their reputation among critics and readers even after the end of the trend for young German literature and the so-called »Fräuleinwunder«.
In 2003, she published »Nichts als Gespenster« (tr: Nothing but Ghosts), her second collection of stories which vary their typical intonation against the background of international settings. In 2007, the bestseller was adapted to film. Two years later her work »Alice« was praised by the jury of the Friedrich Hölderlin Prize for its presentation of five »atmospherically compelling and stylistically masterful stories about dying and the experience of loss.« Hermann’s first novel, »Aller Liebe Anfang« (tr: The Beginning of All Love), was published in 2014. The protagonist lives with her husband and child in a nameless suburb. Life seems calm and tranquil until a neighbour begins stalking Stella. »Die Welt« judged the novel as »A psychological, clever book about the imbalances of asymmetrical closeness in human relationships.« The novel was followed by »Lettipark« (2016), a collection of stories in which the characters have become older and even more bourgeois than they were in the first; instead of looking forward with longing, they often look back with a certain wistfulness. The book was awarded the Danish Bixen Prize for short stories. Looking back is also a central theme in »Daheim« (2021; tr: At Home), Hermann’s second novel, whose first-person narrator is drawn to the coast after her marriage ends and her daughter moves out. According to Deutschlandfunk Kultur, »The compelling thing about Judith Hermann’s slim novel is its atmosphere…In a hypnotic way, she knows how to capture the state of her heroine – a mixture of melancholy, immersion and intoxication of freedom.« The novel received a nomination for the Leipzig Book Fair Prize.
Judith Hermann has received numerous awards for her work, including the Kleist Prize and the Erich Fried Prize. She lives in Berlin.