23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Nancy Huston
© Ali Ghandtschi

Nancy Huston

Nancy Huston was born in Calgary, Canada in 1953. At the age of six, after her mother had left the family, she spent a few months in Germany with her future stepmother and learned to speak German. At fifteen she followed her father and stepmother from Canada to Wilton in New Hampshire, USA, and went on to study Liberal Arts at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. She went to Paris in 1973 for her junior year abraod and did not return. In 1977 she completed a degree at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences sociales where she was taught by semiologist and literary theorist Roland Barthes, and began writing and publishing in French. She contributed to several women’s literary journals such as »Sorcières« and the »Cahiers du GRIF«. Following two non-fiction books, she published her first novel in 1981, »Les variations Goldberg« (Eng. »The Goldberg Variations«, 1996). Some years later (»Plainsong«, 1993) she decided to revive her mother tongue; she now works in both languages and translates her novels in both directions. In addition to her novels, Huston has published numerous works of non-fiction – on issues such as swearwords, war and prostitution, pornography and literary nihilism – as well as three children’s books and two plays. Herself an amateur pianist and flautist, Huston has frequently used music as a motif in her literary work, which is mainly concerned with the themes of motherhood and cultural identity. For example, »La virevolte« (1994; Eng. »Slow Emergencies«, 1996), portrays a dancer who gives up her family for her career. »Instruments des ténèbres« (1996; Eng. »Instruments of Darkness«, 1997) depicts a female author who finds death to be the most fascinating aspect of life, and so has decided against having children. Finally, »L’empreinte de l’ange« (1998; Eng. »The Mark of the Angel«, 1999) is a triangular story. A German woman traumatised by the Second World War fails to counteract her sense of numbness either through marriage to a Frenchman or through motherhood, yet the love of a Hungarian Jew finally restores her ability to participate in life. As in her latest novel, »Lignes de faille« (2006; Eng. »Fault Lines«, 2007), Huston ultimately suggests the blows of fate, crises and conflicts to be threads in life’s rich tapestry. In this work she outlines a family chronicle over sixty years, describing six year old children from four generations, thus highlighting the structure of the family and the influence of changing circumstances. The work was awarded the coveted Prix Femina. Among Huston’s further tributes are the Prix Contrepoint, the Prix du gouverneur général, the Prix Canada-Suisse, the Prix Goncourt des lycéens, the Prix du Livre Inter and the Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle. The author is an Officer of the Order of Canada and Officier des Arts et des Lettres in France. She has been awarded four honorary doctorates, most recently one from the University of Liège.

© international literature festival berlin


Les variations Goldberg
Paris, 1981

Trois fois septembre
Paris, 1989

Bruckner & Thünker
Köln [u.a.O.], 1996
[Ü: Urs Richle]

Instrumente der Finsternis
München, 1998
[Ü: Michael von Killisch-Horn]

Das Engelsmal
München, 2000
[Ü: Michael von Killisch-Horn]

Dolce Agonia
Actes Sud
Arles, 2001

Lignes de faille
Actes Sud
Arles, 2006

Ein winziger Makel
Reinbek, 2008
[Ü: Uli Aumüller; Claudia Steinitz]

Übersetzung: Uli Aumüller, Claudia Steinitz, Urs Richle, Michael von Killisch-Horn