Peter Wawerzinek was born in 1954 in Rostock. Abandoned by his parents, who fled to the West, he grew up in children’s homes on the Baltic Sea coast and was later adopted by two married teachers. After training to be a textile designer and serving in the military, in the late 1970s he moved to East Berlin and began studying at the School of Art in Weissensee. He later worked in a variety of jobs to pay the bills, including as a carpenter, gravedigger, mailman, caretaker, waiter, sausage salesman, and assembly line worker.
In the meantime, he also performed as the impromptu poet »sc.Happy« in the Prenzlauer Berg subculture scene. After an eclectic collection of texts with parodies of GDR literature, in 1990, supported by the avant-garde publisher Erich Maas, Wawerzinek released his first novel »NIX«, which was also adapted for radio and awarded the radio play prize from the Academy of Arts in 1993. If his early texts, such as »Moppel Schappiks Tätowierungen« (1991; tr: Moppel Schappik’s Tattoos) or »Mein Babylon« (1995; tr: My Babylon), contain pastiche-esque recollections of his writer companions and restless alter egos that portray the dissonance of the curiously ahistorical-seeming metropolis, then »Rabenliebe« (2010; tr: Bad Love) marks a turn toward a stark and unsparing type of memoir in which Wawerzinek works through emotional traumata ranging from his mother’s abandonment to stays in orphanages and failed adoptions to a depressing re-encounter. By assembling newspaper clippings and song fragments, the author also points out the dimensions of his difficult past that deal with society and the typology of memory. This introspection, characterized by sentences that continually build new chains of association, is continued with regard to his excessive drinking and arduous withdrawal from alcohol in the countryside in »Schluckspecht« (2014; tr: Memoirs of a Boozer). »Ich – Dylan – Ich« (2015; Eng. »I Dylan I«) is an homage to the Welsh poet who wrote »Under Milk Wood«, a biographically similar figure and continual source of inspiration for Wawerzinek’s characteristically candid, lyrically rhythmic tone. He ambiguously reviews different stations of his eventful life in the witty confessions. Most recently, he published »Rausch« (2018; tr: Intoxication) together with Sven Heuchert, in which he orbits different states of consciousness between intoxication and euphoria.
Several of his prose works have been adapted for radio under the direction of Wolfgang Rindfleisch. Wawerzinek has been awarded the Deutsche Kritikerpreis für Literatur (1991) and the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize (2010), inter alia. He has been writer-in-residence in the cities of St. Wolfgang (2008), Lohme on Rügen (2009), Klagenfurt (2011), Jena (2012), Magdeburg (2015) and Dresden (2016). In 2012, he was a guest instructor at Oberlin College in Ohio. In 2019/2020 he will be a guest of the Villa Massimo in Rome. Wawerzinek lives in Berlin.