22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Irina Liebmann

Irina Liebmann was born in Moscow in 1943. The daughter of a successful journalist and newspaper editor and high official in the Socialist Unity Party, she grew up in Berlin and – after being expelled from the party – in Merseburg, Halle. After completing her course in Chinese Studies in Leipzig she worked as an editor for the magazine »Deutsche Außenpolitik«. As a freelance writer, she has written reportages for the »Wochenpost« as well as radio plays and prose (including two children’s books), stage plays and, since the nineties, poetic texts some of which are written to be read aloud and have been broadcast.

Liebmann’s early work was characterised by its focus on authenticity and truthfulness. The documentary-style short stories in »Berliner Mietshaus« (1982; t: Berlin tenement) emerged from visits to and interviews with the residents in a block of flats in Prenzlauer Berg and offer a glimpse into a microcosm of everyday life in the GDR. A strain of journalistic accuracy is also apparent in Liebmann’s later poetic and dramatic prose works – including the stories »Mitten im Krieg«(1989; t: In the middle of war) and the account »Letzten Sommer in Deutschland«(1997; t: Last summer in Germany). Travels provides the motifs for these books, yet Berlin remains central to most of her works – including her first novel »In Berlin« (1994) and »Stille Mitte von Berlin« (2002; Silent centre of Berlin). With her own photos and an essay, Liebmann documents the area around Hackescher Markt at a time when changes that were to follow German reunification were still impossible to imagine. The protagonist in Liebmann’s latest novel, »Die freien Frauen« (2004; t: Free women), also lives in Berlin-Mitte. An older woman’s search for her unknown background develops into a poetic story about modern and contemporary German history. »Wäre es schön? Es wäre schön!« (2008; t: Would it be good? It would be!), a biography of Liebmann’s father, Rudolph Herrnstadt, also presents a subtle historical portrait. Here she paints the image – both documentary and impressionistic – of an ardent Communist, an editor in chief and newspaper founder who loses himself in his work and founders against the raw power structures of real Socialism. For her »almost unbelievable biography of a man who wanted to invent the world anew«, Liebmann was awarded the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair. Other awards include the GDR Radio Play Prize, the Ernst Willner Prize in the Ingeborg Bachmann Competition, the Aspekte Literature Prize, the Bremen Literature Award’s Prize for Promoting Young Authors, the Prize of the German Schiller Society and the Berlin Literature Prize.

Liebmann, who moved to West-Berlin in 1988, was a guest of Villa Aurora in California in 1995 and from 1998 to 1999, a grant holder at the Villa Concordia in Bamberg. In 2001 she was a guest lecturer at Oberlin College in Ohio. Irina Liebmann lives in Berlin.

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