DAAD Chair in Contemporary Poetics at NYU, Spring 2017;
Katja Petrowskaja was born in Kiev in 1970. She studied Russian literature and semiotics at the University of Tartu, Estonia, and received her Ph.D. in Russian Literature (dissertation: “Vladislav Khodasevich: Poetics of Prose”) at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow. She moved to Berlin in 1999 and has lived there since. As a Russian-language journalist, she appeared at Radio Liberty/Free Europe, Deutsche Welle, Snob, and published op-eds with multiple periodicals. As a German-language journalist, she has written for German and Swiss newspapers such as TAZ and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Since 2011, she has been a regular columnist at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sontagszeitung (FAS), with an ongoing series of columns on photography. She has been a co-initiator and organizer of several international socio-political conferences including the Kiewer-Gespräche (Ukrainian-German Forum).
Petrowskaja’s first book, Vielleicht Esther (Maybe Esther), appeared with Suhrkamp in 2014. It won 7 international literary awards and has been translated into 20 languages. The English translation is forthcoming with Harper Collins in spring 2018. Maybe Esther is an unfinished family history, which Katja Petrowskaja recounts in a series of short chapters. The story could have made for a tragic historical novel. But rather than expanding this monumental material into a sweeping epic narrative, Petrowskaja writes about her journeys to the sites where the events had taken place, reflecting on a fragmented and traumatized century and focusing on figures who pass through history without leaving a trace. The German language seems the only real element of the story. Thus, the journey through the historical and family past turns to the journey through modern European topography, languages lost and found, and new identities of those who inherit or disinherit that historical past.
Prizes and awards (selection):
Premio Strega Europeo 2015
Schubart Literaturpreis 2015
Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis 2013 (one the main literature prizes in the German-speaking world)
Als ob, oder: Wessen Erinnerung spricht? //Als ob. Vergessene Zeit, erinnerte Zeit. Fotoband. Biel/Bienne: Edition clandestin, 2015.
Vielleicht Esther. Geschichten. Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2014.
Die Auserwählten. Ein Sommer im Ferienlager von Orlionok. Bildreportage von Anita Back mit einem Essay von Katja Petrowskaja. Berlin: Braus, 2012.