John Wray was born in Washington, D.C. in 1971, grew up in Buffalo, and received a degree in biology from Oberlin College in Ohio. He took on various jobs including driving a taxi in Alaska and teaching German and Spanish in New York.
For his debut novel »The Right Hand of Sleep« (2001), which is set in the Nazi era in a mountain village in Austria, Wray received the Rome Prize from the American Academy and the Whiting Writers’ Award. The strength of this »antiheimatroman« (a novel that defies the genre of regional literature) lies in the representation of its characters, who are constantly in doubt as to whether their actions are good or evil. The author’s use of literary montage is further refined in his second novel, »Canaan’s Tongue« (2005); in a mixture of first-person narrative, diary entries, letters, citations and investigative reports, Wray moves further into the past, this time to the American Civil War. The criminal preacher John Murrell, from Mark Twain’s »Life on the Mississippi« (1883), pulls the strings in a slave-trading network that eventually entangles a number of formerly respectable citizens. The novel’s gloomy atmosphere – recalling Poe and Faulkner – revisits the theme of moral uncertainty, with elements of the irrational, which manifest themselves here in the form of belief, lending weight to the tale. In »Lowboy« (2009), irrationality in its pathological form becomes a theme in itself: 16-year-old Will Heller, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, escapes from an asylum into the subway tunnels of New York, intent on preventing the imminent destruction of the world as a result of global warming. Together with Will’s mother, an NYPD profiler embarks on a search for the boy. Wray alternates skillfully between psychological realities and mines the narrative potential of schizophrenia. In 2016 he published his novel »The Lost Time Accidents«. An amateur physicist living in Austro-Hungarian Moravia discovers the secret of time and immediately loses his notes, with the result that the next three generations of his descendants spend a whole century and travel across two continents in a bid to find them. The »New York Times« characterized his novel as »an inevitable extension and further exploration of the ideas Wray seems most interested in: secret histories, mental illness, mothers and sons and lost family members«. In his latest novel »Godsend« (2018), Wray follows the path of a young American woman who leaves California for Pakistan in 2001 to join the Taliban.
The author has also published short stories and essays. Citizen of both the United States and Austria, he lives currently in Mexico City.