Ernest Wichner © Mircea Struteanu


Ernest Wichner [ Germany ]

German writer and translator Ernest Wichner was born in 1952 in Zăbrani, Banat, Romania. He graduated from the Nikolaus Lenau Lyceum in Timișoara in 1971 and studied German and Romanian there for three semesters. He was a founding member of the 1972 Aktionsgruppe Banat, a group of young German-language writers from Timișoara critical of the regime, which provoked the secret service Securitate with derisive poems and was dissolved by the Romanian authorities in 1975. Wichner published a collection of texts by the Aktionsgruppe Banat in 1992 under the title »Ein Pronomen ist verhaftet worden« (tr: A pronoun has been arrested). He moved with his family to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1975, 14 years after they first applied to leave the country. He studied German and political science at the Free University Berlin from 1977 to 1982. His first volume of poetry, »Elegien Weiß« (tr: White Elegies), appeared in 1987, followed by »Steinsuppe« (1988; tr: Stone Soup). Both works contained poems about exile and homesickness. Wichner’s lyrical texts are characterized by clarity, abrupt cuts, sudden endings, where a meaning can be surprisingly reinforced by an anticlimax. From 1984 to 1985, Wichner served as director of the office of the Neue Gesellschaft für Literatur (NGL), from 1988 to 2003 he was deputy director of the Literaturhaus Berlin and from 2003 to 2017 its director. For his prose volume »Alte Bilder. Geschichten« (2001; tr: Old Pictures: Stories), Wichner examined the legacy of the junk scattered around Plovdiv during a trip to Bulgaria in order to reconstruct the lives and stories of their owners from photographs and fragments of memories. In 2004, he accompanied Oskar Pastior and Herta Müller on a trip to Ukraine to the camp sites where Pastior had been imprisoned as a Romanian-German forced laborer between 1945 and 1949. Herta Müller wrote her novel »Atemschaukel« (2009; tr: Breath Swing) under the impression of Pastior’s memories. New poems by Ernest Wichner were released in 2003 under the title »Rückseite der Gesten« (tr: Back of Gestures). The poems call in a sensual way names, landscapes, and places as poetic witnesses. »bin ganz wie aufgesperrt« (2010; tr: Am All Unlocked) assembles mainly love poems addressed to a longed-for woman. In these texts about one of the primal themes of poetry, Wichner echoes the occidental tradition; there are references to Petrarch, to John Donne, and to the erotic poetry of antiquity. In the same year his poetry collection »Neuschnee und Ovomaltine« (Fresh Snow and Ovaltine) was also published.

Ernest Wichner has translated works by Mircea Cărtărescu, Norman Manea, Max Blecher, Cătălin Mihuleac, Nora Iuga, and Varujan Vosganian, among others, into German. He has received numerous awards, including the Förderpreis zum Marburger Literaturpreis (1987), the Förderpreis zum Andreas-Gryphius-Preis (1991), the Prize of the City of Münster for European Poetry (2005, together with Daniel Banulescu), the Anerkennungspreis des Zuger Übersetzerstipendiums (2007), and the Johann Heinrich Voß Prize for Translation (2020) for »…his unique services to Romanian literature«. Ernest Wichner lives in Berlin.




edition suhrkamp

Frankfurt a.M., 1988


Rückseite der Gesten

Zu Klampen

Springe, 2003

bin ganz wie aufgesperrt


Heidelberg, 2010