Leon de Winter was born in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Holland, in 1954. His parents were the only members of his Jewish family who survived the Holocaust. Leon de Winter started writing at the age of twelve, as a reaction to his father’s early death. Central themes of his work have since been farewells, mourning, loss and death. He confronts his fear of personal tragedies with his storytelling. “I imagine the worst and then I create a ritual, the ritual of writing, to control it and to protect reality.“ After finishing school he trained at Bavaria Film in Munich and subsequently studied at the film academy in Amsterdam. He has been a freelance writer since 1976. His connection to the film world remained; he has worked as a film-maker, screenplay writer and producer.
De Winter’s love of cinema also comes across in his novels. His storytelling relies on various techniques of film narration. He has a good feeling for plots and settings, and is a master of polished dialogue. He is not afraid of momentous feelings. His plot structures are as complex as they are dramatically perfect, his characters alive and multi-faceted.
One of de Winter’s best-known novels is “Leo Kaplan”(1986, published in Germany in 2001). Parallel and simultaneously contrary to his own biography, in this novel the author invents his own alter ego, a writer suffering from writer’s block. The character of Hoffman in “Hoffman’s honger“ (1990; t: Hoffman’s Hunger, 1994) is also a tragic hero searching for a way to cope with the blows dealt by fate.
In 1999 de Winter set up the film production company Pleswin, with the idea of making European material attractive for the US market. In 2000 the film “The Hollywood Sign“ was adapted from his novel “De Hemel van Hollywood“ (1997; t: Heaven over Hollywood, 1998) and directed by Sönke Wortmann. A film adaptation of “SuperTex“ (2003; directed by Jan Schütte) was released in 2003. Six of his novels have been adapted as films to date.
Leon de Winter also writes theatre plays, reports and short stories. He regularly comments on political subjects in essays and newspaper articles, e.g. on European unification, the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the war in Iraq.
In 2002 he received the WELT prize for literature for his life’s work. In 2005 he was Visiting Lecturer at Berkeley University, San Francisco. Recently, he was awarded the Buber Rosenzweig Medal for his fight against anti-semitism and racism.
Leon de Winter lives with his wife, the writer Jessica Durlacher, and children in Amsterdam and Los Angeles.
© international literature festival berlin