Vladimir Vertlib was born in 1966 into a Russian-Jewish family in Leningrad (USSR, today St. Petersburg). His parents were members of an illegal Zionist organisation. In 1971, the family emigrated, travelling across Israel, the Netherlands, the USA and Italy until they settled in Austria in 1981. Vertilb studied Economics in Vienna and was granted Austrian citizenship in 1986. He worked as a freelancer for the Japanese news agency, Kyodo News Service, and then as a statistician for the Austrian Kontrollbank. He has worked as an independent author, journalist and translator.
His texts were initially published in literary journals. His first novel, »Abschiebung« (tr: Deportation) was published in 1995. As in the subsequent novel, »Zwischenstationen« (1999, tr: Intermediate Stops), he looks at the experience of home, exile and otherness. Both books describe the attempts of families who have emigrated from the Soviet Union to find their footing in other countries. Vertlib is rooted in realistic narratives. He dedicates himself in his clear, unpretentious language to telling the history of Russian Jews in the 20th century through individual stories: »The most important thing for me is […] whether, or how, the combination of the experienced, the imagined and the associated can be distilled to one exemplary case, and thereby become for the reader a mirror — maybe even a distorting mirror — of his or her own feelings, experiences, fears and desires.« In »Das besondere Gedächtnis der Rosa Masur« (2001, tr: Rosa Masura’s Special Memory) the focus is on the life story of a 92-year-old Jewish woman from Belarus. The tale tells of her childhood in the Jewish Schtetl, the blockade of Leningrad, the repressions within Soviet society and her emigration to Germany during Perestroika. In his distillation of European history during its great conflicts, Vertlib tells the old woman’s story so realistically that his book at times recalls the literary accounts of eyewitnesses like Jewgenija Ginsburg or Lydia Tschukowskaja. In his most recent novel, »Am Morgen des zwölften Tages« (2009, tr: On the Morning of the Twelfth Day) Vertlib embeds the love story between a German and a Muslim within the larger conflicted relationship between Occident and Orient, between Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Vladimir Vertlib has received, among others, the Adelbert-von-Chamisso-Prize in 2001 and Anton-Wildgans-Preis of the City of Vienna in 2002. The author lives in Salzburg.