Mathias Énard

Portrait Mathias Énard
© Hartwig Klappert

Mathias Énard was born in Niort, France, in 1972. He worked towards a university degree in contemporary art before beginning, in 1992, to study Arabic and Persian in Tehran, Egypt, Venice and Damascus. He subsequently taught French in a village in Syria for two years. Until 2010 he taught Arabic at the University of Barcelona.

His first novel, »La perfection du tir« (tr: The perfection of shooting), the story of a sniper in a city torn by civil war, appeared in 2003 and was followed by »Remonter l’Orénoque« (tr: Back on the Orinoco) in 2005. In 2007 he published a burlesque essay on terrorism: »Bréviaire des artificiers« (tr: Breviary of a Blaster). To mark the beginning of the 2008 French literature season, Actes Sud published Énard’s novel »Zone« (Eng. 2010), which met with unanimous critical acclaim. On a train journey from Milan to Rome, the protagonist, Francis Servain Mirković, recalls all the shadow players, agitators, terrorists, bankrollers and middlemen, arms dealers and war criminals on the run whom he met during his 15 years as an agent in his zone – first Algeria, and then gradually the entire Middle East. A review in the French cultural journal »Télérama« read as such: »Apart from a few commas, no punctuation: A novel in a single sentence, endless, inspired by rage, deadly delusion and possessed by an undreamt-of desire for resurrection«. In 2010 his book »Parle-leur de batailles, de rois et d’éléphants« (tr: Tell them about battles, kings and elephants) considers what would have happened if, in the early 16th century, Michelangelo had fulfilled the Ottoman Sultan’s behest to design a bridge between the Asian and European halves of Constantinople. This divide between the Orient and Occident remains highly relevant 500 years later. Most recently Énard published »Rue des voleurs« (2012; Eng. »Street of Thieves«, 2014), a novel unveiling an impressive, convincing panoramic view of the Arab Spring as well as of the European financial crisis and its repercussions, and »Boussole« (2015; tr: Compass), in which he addresses anew the (historical) relationship between the Western World and the Middle East. In 2015 this book won Énard the Prix Goncourt, the most important French literature prize.

The author has also received numerous awards for his other works, including the 2009 Prix du Livre Inter for his novel »Zone«. Mathias Énard was the first French winner of the German-French literary award, Candide (2008). He lives in Barcelona.