22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Nell Zink

Portrait Nell Zink
Nell Zink [© Francesca Torricelli]

Nell Zink, born in 1964 in California, grew up in rural Virginia and went to the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg. She has been interested in nature conservation since she was a child. In 1993 in Philadelphia, she founded the »Fanzine Animal Review«, which published, among others, texts about pets or favorite animals by their authors. Before Zink moved to Germany in 2000, she worked for the Colgate-Palmolive corporation as a secretary, and as a technical writer in Tel Aviv. In 2008, she completed her doctorate in media studies in Tübingen. She also worked as a journalist and translator.

After she criticized an article about migratory birds in the Mediterranean region by the renowned writer Jonathan Franzen in a letter, she began to correspond with the author, who encouraged her to publish her own texts. Her début novel »The Wallcreeper« (2014) takes place in the Bernese Oberland and in modern Berlin and tells of a woman named Tiffany whose character shows certain similarities with the bird in the novel’s title. When Tiffany’s husband Stephen runs over a wallcreeper, triggering Tiffany’s miscarriage, and then cares for the injured bird, it leads to profound changes: Stephen begins getting involved in nature conservation, even eventually giving up his career in order to dedicate himself full time to the renaturalization of rivers. Tiffany, at the beginning gray and inconspicuous like a wallcreeper, increasingly transforms herself and breaks away from the passive dependency on her husband. Zink’s marriage novel, eco-novel, and bildungsroman is rich in philosophical and literary references. The NGO environment where Tiffany gets involved is observed with irony. The novel earned a place on the list of the »100 notable books of 2014« by »New York Times«. »Mislaid« (2015) was followed by »Nicotine« (2016). In it, she observes the current division in America and tells the story of a young woman who wants to renovate her father’s childhood home after his death, but finds a commune of anarchist chain-smoking squatters there. After initial resistance, she develops a feeling of belonging with the politically active residents, falls in love with an asexual man in the group, and stands up for them against the demands of her family. »DIE ZEIT« praised the novel as a »wonderful satirical collection of scenes about young middle-class white people who will do anything in their greed for something to believe in«.

Today, the author lives in Bad Belzig.