María Cecilia Barbetta was born in 1972 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She attended the German school in Buenos Aires and later studied German as a foreign language at university. In 1996, she came to Berlin as a DAAD grantee. In 2000, she earned her doctorate in German language and literature from the Freie Universität and decided to remain in Berlin. Until 2005, she taught Spanish at the Viadrina Universität in Frankfurt (Oder) while also working at the former Museumspädagogischer Dienst Berlin (museum education services department) as an academic intern in the field of art exhibitions. She began to write with the support of a grant from the Senate of Berlin.
Barbetta wrote her début work »Änderungsschneiderei Los Milagros« (2008; tr: Los Milagros Tailor’s Shop), which won the Aspekte Literature Prize and the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, in German. »It’s as if the German language were a cloak, and with this cloak I can travel back to Buenos Aires…, protected by this language that, to me, always entails some distance, a certain irony.« Following the literary traditions of Argentina, especially that of Julio Cortázar, in »Änderungsschneiderei Los Milagros« Barbetta tells the story of the young tailor Mariana, who works for her aunt and is meant to do the alterations of Analía’s mother’s wedding dress for Analía. As Analía’s wedding approaches, Mariana waits in vain for messages from her fiancé, who has been lingering in the USA. The borders between dreams and reality become blurred, and the two narrative threads of Mariana and Analía intertwine and weave together into a multilayered storyline. The novel’s title reveals itself to be a metaphor that guides the entire text: Barbetta senses the hidden or potential double and triple meanings of German words, plays with their various dimensions with virtuosity, constructs unusual chains of association, invents neologisms, composes new melodies for her sentences, and allows herself to make numerous allusions to world literature. Even before Barbetta’s second novel »Nachtleuchten« (2018; tr: Night Lights) was published, an excerpt from the manuscript was awarded the Alfred Döblin Prize. The plot is set in the Ballester district of Buenos Aires at a time of political upheaval dominated by the eerie atmosphere of the eve of a political revolution. Barbetta draws from her childhood experiences of living under a military dictatorship in which the fear felt by adults is omnipresent and becomes inscribed into the emotional framework of her generation.
Barbetta was also awarded a fellowship by the Villa Massimo in Rome in 2013 as well as further grants from the Senate of Berlin and the Deutscher Literaturfonds in Darmstadt. The author lives and works in Berlin.