When Memo Anjel was born in Medellín in 1954, his parents, Sephardic Jews, had only just immigrated to Colombia from Algeria. In the 1950s they experienced the early difficulties of emigration in the Jewish quarter of Medellín. This is also what Memo Anjel's novel La mesa de los judíos (German: Das meschuggene Jahr) is all about. It was the first book by the author to have been translated into German. During his stay as a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Programme in 2005, he took the book on a very successful reading tour through Germany.
I'm a professor for my livelihood and an author for my soul.
– Memo Anjel
In his own words, Memo Anjel is a "professor for his livelihood and a writer for his soul". As a professor, he teaches social communication at the Pontifical Bolivian University, the second largest of the 12 universities in the city of Medellín. The author has published numerous novels, stories and essays. In La mesa de los judíos he tells, with plenty of humour, the story of the cranky members of a Jewish emigrant family in Medellín who dream of travelling to Jerusalem. Anjel, who himself spent several years living in Israel, lets the journey become reality for the characters in his novel Mindeles Liebe, which he finished in Berlin and was published in German in 2009 by Rotpunktverlag in Zurich.
Civil war, violence and drug dealing dominate the image that is associated with Colombia and, particularly, Medellín. Quite deliberately, none of this is found in Anjel's books. Anjel is one of a group of modern Colombian authors who no longer think in and write from a Colombian perspective, preferring rather to take a universal view. "People all around the world have the same experiences – whether they live in Colombia or in Germany. They have a family, work, suffer, experience the same tragedies, war and emigration."
During his stay in Berlin, Anjel wrote his collections of stories Das Fenster zum Meer and Geschichten vom Fenstersims (published in 2007). The latter shows that he was a careful observer of the German capital. He regularly wrote articles for the Colombian daily El Colombiano from Germany. He composed them in the form of letters to German intellectual giants and stars, such as Albert Einstein, Jacob Grimm, Marlene Dietrich and Max Schmeling. In addition to his work as a writer and professor, he is currently responsible for the Radio Bolivariana programme La otra historia.