Olga Martynova was born near Krasnoyarsk in Siberia in 1962. She grew up in Leningrad, where she studied Russian language and literature and co-founded the poetry group Kamera Chranenia [tr: Luggage Storage] in the 1980s. She moved to Germany with her husband, the writer Oleg Yuriev, in 1991. She writes her poetry in Russian and her essays and prose in German.
In 2010, she made her debut as an author with »Sogar Papageien überleben uns« [tr: Even Parrots Live Longer than Us] which made it onto the longlist for the German Book Prize. Its eighty short texts are about a St. Petersburg Slavist who attends a congress on Daniil Charms in Berlin. The situation inspires her to create various chains of associations with Russian-Soviet history of the 20th century. Olga Martynova won the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 2012 for a chapter of her subsequent novel »Mörikes Schlüsselbein« [2013; tr: Mörike’s Collarbone]. The cross-genre text centers on a Russian-German couple with an illustrious circle of friends and a son who wants to make literature his profession. »Olga Martynova links what is stored in collective memory and puts it in relation to each other […] she listens for the secret correspondence between words, images, between Germans and Russians, for the related tones between the uncertain smile of an ice cream saleswoman and the image of an Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter« [»Stuttgarter Zeitung«].
Martynova’s novel »Der Engelsherd« [tr: The Angel’s Hearth], about the love between a writer and a young doctoral student who is writing her dissertation about him, was published in 2016. In this text, which is simultaneously a satire on the literary establishment, Martynova uses poetic language to explore the relationship between beauty and violence. The titular figures of the spiritual world are also given a voice in order to »reconcile the trivial and the miraculous« [»Der Tagesspiegel«]. In her most recent collection of essays, »Über die Dummheit der Stunde« [2018; tr: On the Stupidity of the Hour], Martynova not only addresses contemporary issues such as the state of contemporary Russian society, Crimea, and its landscapes and inhabitants, but also describes travels and makes excursions into Russian literary history.
Martynova also writes reviews for the »Neue Zürcher Zeitung«, the »Frankfurter Rundschau«, and »DIE ZEIT«. Her poems have been translated into German, English, Italian, Albanian, and French, among other languages. Martynova has received many scholarships and prizes, including the Hubert Burda Prize for Young Poetry in 2000, the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize in 2011, the scholarship of the International Artists’ House Villa Concordia in Bamberg in 2013/14, and the Berlin Literature Prize in 2015. In the same year, she held the Heiner Müller Visiting Professorship for German-Language Poetics at the FU Berlin. She lives in Frankfurt am Main.