How would living under Communism have shaped your identity? What about being the child of Jehovah’s Witnesses; or a wife deceived by her husband; or living in the continual (and reasonable) fear of attack by a ravenous wolf? Perhaps, if you were affected by such conditions, you could ignore the “monster in the house,” and form successful friendships, relationships and careers. Then again, your experience with that fraught backdrop might linger, stretching into future generations. In this panel, we speak with four authors whose novels and short stories bring to life the specters that haunt them — some political, some familial, some ineffable. These ghosts in the machine have colored their characters’ views of themselves and the world around them. We explore the question of how those who form their selfhood in the shadow of dark influences can use memory to illuminate their reality and liberate their truth.
Stefanie de Velasco was born in 1978 in Oberhausen as the child of Spanish immigrants. She grew up in the Rhineland and raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. At fifteen she left the religious organization and subsequently studied Ethnology and Political Science. She is a regular contributor to publications such as Zitty, FAZ, and die Zeit, and her debut novel, Tigermilch, was published in 2013 by Kiepenheuer & Witsch. It was translated into multiple languages, including English (as Tiger Milk), and adapted into a feature film.
Laura Freudenthaler was born 1984 in Salzburg. She studied German language and literature studies, Philosophy and Gender Studies. She lives in Vienna. Her stories Der Schädel der Madeleine were published in 2014. For her novel Die Königin schweigt she was awarded the Förderpreis zum Bremer Literaturpreis 2018 and the novel was recommended as best German debut at the Festival du Premier Roman 2018 in Chambéry. In February 2019 she publishes her second novel Geistergeschichte.
Gianna Molinari was born in Basel in 1988 and lives in Zurich. She studied Literary Writing at the Swiss Literature Institute in Biel, then Modern German Literature at the University of Lausanne. Since 2015 she has been working as a programming assistant at the Solothurn Literary Forum. In 2012 she received a grant to attend the authors’ workshop Prosa at the Literarischen Colloquium Berlin, and won the jury prize and audience prize at the 17th MDR Literary Competition that same year. In 2017 she won the 3sat Prize in Klagenfurt for an extract from her debut novel.
John Wray is the author of The Lost Time Accidents, Lowboy, Canaan’s Tongue, and The Right Hand of Sleep. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and a Mary Ellen von der Heyden Fellowship from the American Academy in Berlin, he was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists in 2007. He is also the winner of the 2017 Deutschlandfunk Prize awarded at the Festival of German-Language Literature (the Ingeborg Bachmann Wettbewerb in Klagenfurt). A citizen of the United States and Austria, he currently lives in New York City.
Jenny Zhang is the author of the story collection Sour Heart and the poetry collection Dear Jenny, We Are All Find. She is the recipient of the Pen/Bingham Award for Debut Fiction and the LA Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.