Marjana Gaponenko was born in 1981 in Odessa, where she spent her childhood and youth. She began learning German in high school at the age of 14, and has been writing literary texts in German since she was 16. At 19, she moved to Schöppingen in Münsterland. Her first pieces appeared in the literary magazine »Muschelhaufen«. Her first collection of poems, »Wie tränenlose Ritter« (tr. Like Tearless Knights), was published in 2000; one year later, she was selected as a finalist for »Author of the Year« by »Deutsche Sprachwelt« magazine. Her poems have been translated into English, French, Italian, Polish, Romanian, and Turkish. Her début novel, »Annuschka Blume« (2010; tr. Annuschka Flower), tells the story of an ageing teacher in rural Ukraine who receives regular letters from Piotr, an eccentric journalist and world traveler. For the protagonist, Piotr’s letters are like a life-giving elixir, and their affectionate correspondence is not only emotionally moving, but also an exchange of philosophical thoughts. Gaponenko’s next novel, »Wer ist Martha?« (2012; Eng. »Who is Martha?«, 2014), is about an elderly ornithologist from Ukrainian Galicia who has recently learned from his doctor that he will die soon. The news leads him to move to his mother’s city, Vienna, where he checks into a fashionable hotel and awaits his end. There, he gets to known another old man also in ill health. Like the two old men on the balcony in »The Muppet Show«, the two now drink fruit vodka at the hotel bar, commenting on the hairstyles of the ladies, reminiscing about the brutal past century, and dreaming of the revolution, until Levadski’s money slowly but surely runs out. The »highly poetic, picaresque novel« (»Nürnberger Nachrichten«) was awarded the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize. Inspired by her experiences with her Haflinger horses, Gaponenko followed up with »Das letzte Rennen« (2016; tr. The Last Race). Young, spoiled Kaspar studies without having a goal, being less interested in people than in the ponies of his wealthy father, a Polish-born engineer and self-made man – at least until his father challenges him to a race that ends in disaster. In her newest novel, »Der Dorfgescheite« (2018; tr. The Clever One), Gaponenko makes a library the setting for her exciting, strange, and dark story. Exhausted by his excessive love life, one-eyed Ernest Herz searches for peace and tranquility as a monastery librarian. But when he discovers that his apartment’s previous tenant mysteriously committed suicide, Herz wants to find out why. In 2017, Gaponenko published a selection of retellings of »Die schönsten deutschen Volkssagen« (tr. The Finest German Folk Tales) from different German-speaking regions.
After three-year stays in Krakow and Dublin, today she lives in Vienna and Mainz.