United States of America
Guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Programme 1999–2000
“I ... was born in America and now live in Europe. In fact, in the Berlin district of Schöneberg.” This first-person narrative sentence is spoken by Cal Stephanides in the novel Middlesex, which won the Pulitzer Prize. And the novel's author, Jeffrey Eugenides could say exactly the same about himself for about five years. In 1999 the US writer came to Berlin as a guest of the DAAD’s Artists-in-Berlin programme and lived in Schöneberg with his wife and daughter until summer 2004. He spent eight years (three in Berlin) working on the novel for which he has just won the most-coveted U.S. literature prize. Eugenides once said that Berlin had “saved” him, because this was where he could “just write instead of being an author”. Eugenides: “Far away from New York and the world of publishing I found my way back to those circumstances under which I had begun.”
Berlin saved me ... just writing instead of being an author.
Everything had begun in Detroit, where Eugenides was born in 1960 as the child of Greek parents. At the age of 15 he already knew that he wanted to become a writer. As a student he wrote for a sailing magazine to finance his creative writing studies at Stanford, California. His first novel The Virgin Suicides, which was published in 1993, immediately became an international bestseller and was turned into a film by star director Sofia Coppola.
In Middlesex, Eugenides tells the story of a Greek family of immigrants in Detroit; it is also the fantastic story of the hermaphrodite Cal Stephanides. The author describes the urban society with an oppressive eye for detail and exceptional invention. The novel, celebrated by U.S. critics as “The Great American Novel”, has also been published in German. A collection of stories Air Mail is also available in German, published by the Artists-in-Berlin programme. His novel The Marriage Plot was published in 2011. It is the story of a love triangle set in an American elite university. In 2013 Jeffrey Eugenides became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He holds a professorship in creative writing at Princeton University.