Ornela Vorpsi was born in Tirana in 1968. She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts there and in 1989 relocated to Italy, where she continued her studies at the Accademia di belle Arti di Brera in Milan. In 1997 she graduated from the Université Paris VIII and since then has worked as a writer, photographer, painter and video artist in Paris.
At first Vorpsi devoted herself to the visual arts. Her photographic monograph »Nothing Obvious« (2001) displays a preoccupation with the female body, with technical accuracy and allusions to art history positioning itself against the contemporary penchant for randomness. »With the concept of the ›nakedness‹ of the female body I have always tried in my photographic work to offer a status report from beyond beauty and sensuality, and with that to pose questions regarding the impermanence of the body and time’s toll on it.« Beauty, desire and transcience are also central themes in her written work, to which Vorpsi is increasingly devoting her time. Her texts, written in Italian, are usually published first in French translation. The sense-arousing début »Il paese dove non si muore mai« (2005; t: The land where one never dies) contains prose sketches from an Albanian childhood and is a harsh account of the author’s native country in the Communist era. The vulnerable young protagonist is at the mercy of the brutal society in which she grows up. She experiences the fundamental absurdity of life in the blend of lust and hatred of the sexes’ encounter and in the atrocious arbitrariness of the political system itself. The protagonist’s father is arrested on political grounds that remain incomprehensible; the village school teacher meets the childish belief in angels with a heated ruler and thrashes the protagonist, envious of her pretty mother while the latter dolls herself up to look attractive for men whom she later punishes with scorn.
Vorpsi also assumes the role of the estranged observer in the collection of thirteen stories »Buvez du cacao Van Houten!« (2005; t: Drink Van Houten cacao!). In 2006 »Vetri rosa« (t: Pink cullets; with photographs by the author) was published alongside texts written by Vorpsi while she was living at the Villa Kuyoyama near Kyoto. Her most recent work, »La mano che non mordi« (2007; t: The hand that you don’t bite), is set in the former Yugoslavia, which resembles her native country in uncanny ways.
Among Vorpsi’s distinctions are the renowned Italian literature prize Grinzane Cavour, the Premio Viareggio, the Premio Elio Vittorini, the Premio città di Vigevano and the Prix méditerranéen des Lycéens. The artist has shown her work at numerous exhibitions in France, Italy, Montenegro, Albania and Belgium. She currently lives in Berlin as a guest of the Artists-in-Berlin programme (2007/08) of the German Academic Exchange Service.
© international literature festival berlin