Saša Stanišić was born in 1978 in Višegrad, a small Bosnian town in what was then Yugoslavia. During the Bosnian war, his family fled to Germany in 1992. Stanišić attended school in Heidelberg and studied German as a foreign language and Slavic studies there. His master’s thesis on Wolf Haas was awarded the Jürgen Fritzenschaft Prize by the University of Heidelberg in 2004. During his studies he also wrote literary texts, and after completing his master’s degree, he enrolled at the German Literature Institute in Leipzig. In 2005, he entered the Ingeborg Bachmann competition with his story »Was wir im Keller spielen …« [tr: What We Play in the Basement …], a retrospective of the war in Yugoslavia from the perspective of a child. Stanišić received the Kelag-Publikumspreis for the story.
He published his debut novel, which has since been translated into thirty languages, in 2006. »How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone« [Eng. 2008] is about an unusual childhood set against the backdrop of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the war in Bosnia, and a resulting flight to Germany. In contrast to the horrific events recounted here, the linguistic style of the work, which is mainly due to the childlike, youthful narrative perspective, is rather cheerful, anecdotal, and naive. The novel made it onto the shortlist of the German Book Prize and was awarded the Förderpreis zum Literaturpreis der Stadt Bremen in 2007. A radio play version nominated for the German Audiobook Prize was produced by Bayerischer Rundfunk in 2007, and the dramatized version premiered in 2008 at Schauspielhaus Graz, where Stanišić was the city’s writer in residence in 2006/07. His novel »Vor dem Fest« [2014; Eng. »Before the Feast«, 2015], a humorous portrayal of life in a village in the Uckermark, received the Leipzig Book Fair Prize in 2014. »What Stanisic succeeds in doing with his brilliantly written rural play, which passes equally as well as an ironically reduced local history and literary tragicomedy, is to put the cliché to use without drawing too heavily on stereotypes« [SPIEGEL]. Stanišić received the German Book Prize for his autobiographically tinged novel »Herkunft« [2019; Eng. »Where You Come From«, 2021]. Here, as in a memoir, the author reflects not only on his own history, but also on the general question of what origin means and what problems migrants are confronted with.
Stanišić has been honored with numerous other prizes, including the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, the Alfred Döblin Prize, and the Hohenems Literature Prize. In addition to novels, he writes short stories and children’s books. Stanišic is a member of the Freie Akademie der Künste in Hamburg, where he also lives.