23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Joseph Olshan

Joseph Olshan was born in the USA. He taught Creative Writing at New York University in the 1990s and was the editor-in-chief of Delphinium Books until 2002. In 1985, his debut novel »Clara’s Heart« won him The London Times/Jonathan Cape Young Writers’ Competition. Three years later the book was filmed starring Whoopi Goldberg in the leading role. The theme of the novel revolves around an unusual relationship developing between the American puberty-stricken boy David and the Jamaican housekeeper Clara. Since David’s parents are totally absorbed in their own affairs, they are not able to recognise their son’s needs, and Clara takes over the important role of the ›substitute mother‹. David opens up to her and even learns to speak her Jamaican Patois. But his desire for closeness and acceptance goes too far and their intimate friendship is put to the test when he violates Clara’s privacy by digging for dark secrets in her past. The sequel, »In Clara’s Hands«, appeared some fifteen years later in 2001. Olshan places the main emphasis on the complexities and the emotional and psychological dynamics of relationships – as he does in all his other novels. In the New York setting of the 1990’s, »Nightswimmer« (1994) tells the love story of Will Kaplan and Sean Paris, dealing with longing and loss, with closeness and distance, and with sex and the »fear of drowning in love«. The novel was praised by the critics for its psychological accuracy and realist narrative style, which are strengths that it also shares with »Vanitas« (1988). In that novel, the protagonist and art dealer Elliott Garland, who suffers from Aids, hires author Sam Solomon to write his memoirs. He also asks Sam to return a drawing to his ex-lover Bobby LaCour, who lives in London, all of which sets a complicated relationship in motion. The three men engage in a triangular network of obsessions, lust and jealousy. Apart from his seven novels, Joseph Olshan has contributed to various American and British newspapers including »The New York Times«, »The Washington Post«, and »The London Times«. In addition, he writes book reviews for »The Wall Street Journal« on a regular basis. Together with neuropathologist Mahlon Johnson, who acquired HIV while performing an autopsy, he reported Dr Johnson’s battle against the virus in »Working on a Miracle« (1997). At the moment he is working on a new novel. Joseph Olshan lives in Woodstock/ Vermont and in New York.

© international literature festival berlin


A Warmer Season
London, 1987

The Waterline
London, 1989

Claras Herz
München, 1992
Übersetzung: Matthias Müller

Sound of Heaven
London, 1992

Arbeit an einem Wunder
[mit Mahlon Johnson]
Berlin Verlag
Berlin, 1997
Übersetzung: Barbara Schaden

London, 1998

In Clara’s Hands
London, 2001

Der Nachtschwimmer
München, 2003
Übersetzung: Gerold Hens

Übersetzer: Gerold Hens, Matthias Müller