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Jenny Erpenbeck: European Facts and Fictions

Listen to Jenny Erpenbeck: European Facts and Fictions

Photograph of Melinda Harvey and Jenny Erpenbeck

Melinda Harvey and Jenny Erpenbeck at the Athenaeum Theatre — Photo: Sophie Quick

‘I do believe that East German authors have an experiential advantage from having lived through a period of such radical change,' Jenny Erpenbeck has said. 'I grew up constantly being reminded that I lived on the poorer side of Germany ... You can’t forget what it felt like to be on the other side of history.'

Born, bred and still based in Berlin, Jenny Erpenbeck is among Germany's most exciting and innovative voices. She's a writer of short and startling novels – often concerned with the profound upheavals of Europe's dark 20th Century – and she’s well known for her daring experiments with form.

In her acclaimed sixth novel, The End of Days, the main character dies four times, living out several different destinies, each uniquely shaped by historical events in Germany, Austria and Russia. With her latest novel, Go, Went, Gone, Erpenbeck turns her attention to one of the great moral challenges facing the European continent this century – mass human displacement and the refugee crisis.

As part of our Mayhem series, Erpenbeck joins Melinda Harvey to discuss her life and work – and the dimensions of history.

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