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Jonathan Franzen

2023 Festival Theme: "Mental Illness in Fiction."

JonathanFranzen2018(c)Shelby Graham.jpg
Photo credit2018(c)
Shelby Graham
Jonathan Franzen is the author of four of the most highly acclaimed novels of recent decades— The Corrections (2001), Freedom (2010), Purity (2015), and Crossroads (2021)— and is one of the most visible and intensely debated writers in the United States. Born in Chicago in 1959, Franzen burst on the literary scene in 1988 with his first novel, The Twenty-Seventh City. Eight years later, following the publication of his second novel, Strong Motion (1992), came his famous “Harper’s essay” (“Why Bother”), in which he tackled the problem of writing novels in an age of visual entertainment and mass distraction. Since then, he has published five volumes of nonfiction, including a memoir (The Discomfort Zone [2006]), a memoir/polemic in the form of annotations to his translations of the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus (The Kraus Project [2013]), and the essay collections How to Be Alone (2002), Farther Away (2012), and, most recently, The End of the End of the Earth (2018). He has also published translations, from the German, of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening and Thomas Brussig’s The Short End of the Sonnenallee. His essays and journalism have frequently appeared in The New Yorker, The Guardian, National Geographic, and other publications.
Franzen’s work has been published in forty languages and was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 2010. His television appearances include Today, The Colbert Show, and (as himself) The Simpsons. Among his honors are the Whiting Writers Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Book Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Award, the Heartland Prize, Die Welt Literature Prize, the Budapest Grand Prize, the Thomas Mann Prize, and the first Carlos Fuentes Medal awarded at the Guadalajara International Book Fair. Franzen is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German Akademie der Künste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. An ardent bird-watcher, he has served on the board of the American Bird Conservancy since 2008, and has received the EuroNatur Award for his work in bird conservation. He lives in Santa Cruz, California.
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