[This page by Douglas Irving]

Anne Richter

Poet and writer Anne Richter was born in 1973, in Jena, in former East Germany. As a teenager she experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification. Anne belongs to a generation of contemporary German writers, such as Maxim Leo and Julia Schoch, who grew up under East German state communism and distil this experience through their fiction.

At Jena University Anne studied romance languages and English language and literature, during which time she spent periods abroad in Oxford and Bologna. Before this, after German reunification, she spent some time travelling abroad, including a year in Marseille.

She now lives with her daughter in Heidelberg, where she works as a foreign-language teacher, poet and writer.

Since 2009, Anne has gained recognition for her writing and has been the recipient of various creative-writing grants, including one award from the Literary Colloquium in Berlin. In 2011 she was nominated for the respected Ingeborg Bachmann Prize.

In 2012 her first work was published, the short-story collection Kämpfen wie Männer; Fight Like Men, introducing the reader to many finely etched characters placed in a variety of rural and urban settings, including several European cities. The stories cover themes such as friendship, illness and family dynamics, told humanely with acute attention to detail, demonstrating Anne’s great gift of observation. The stories are often influenced by contemporary European history, including the war in Kosovo.

The title of the eponymous opening story pays homage to a song of the same name by the great East German folk singer, Gerhard Gundermann. Anne’s story Kämpfen wie Männer concerns a father’s attempts to pass on to his son his love of the game of chess and push him reluctantly into the limelight of the chess-playing world.

Anne’s debut novel, Fremde Zeichen; Distant Signs was published in 2013 to critical acclaim. The title is from a poem by the great Austrian poet, Ingeborg Bachmann.

Distant Signs chronicles the lives of various members of two East German families across three generations, and covers a time period from 1965 to 1992, as well as several flashbacks to World War Two. Anne affords each of her seven characters a distinct voice and build a multi-perspective, multi-layered narrative that constantly surprises the reader with its hidden depths.

The novel focuses on the fortunes of Hans and Margret, two young East Germans of differing social backgrounds, who meet on a farm placement in the mid-1960s, and marry soon after. Each bear emotional scars from their childhood and their relationship is fraught with communication difficulties, which only show signs of resolution towards the end of the novel as the East German state, an ever-present backdrop to the couple’s marital difficulties, starts to teeter. It is through the lens of the next generation that Anne Richter offers a glimpse of hope for the future, albeit tinged with her characteristic realism.

Distant Signs is a universal story of human relationships and family bonds set in and around an unnamed city in the former East Germany. Anne shows great insight into the lives of others, as they undergo stresses and strains on an emotional and societal level; above all, she draws fair and non-judgmental representations of her individual characters, warts and all.

In 2014, Anne published the short poetry pamphlet, Marmor und Moos; Marble and Moss (Kunststiftung Baden-Württemberg, 2014), which is one of ten such publications funded by the Baden-Württemberg Arts Foundation, featuring various grant-assisted writers.

Anne has participated in numerous poetry events, both in her home town of Heidelberg, and abroad, sometimes involving collaborative elements.

In 2019, Anne published her second novel, Unvollkommenheit; Imperfection (Osburg Verlag, 2019). It contains more storytelling elements than Distant Signs, offering a portrayal of three characters, Marc, Hanka and Paul, who meet in Jena just before the late-1980s social unrest that led to the fall of East Germany’s communist regime. Anne widens her narrative beyond German borders, to Romania in the 1990s, a country still in transition from communism to capitalism, before bringing her story back to Germany in 2008, as the global financial crisis looms. Once again Anne reveals her interest in human dynamics and how people are affected by extreme social change.

Her works include:

Kämpfen wie Männer; Fight Like Men (2012), short-story collection

Fremde Zeichen; Distant Signs (2013), novel

Marmor und Moos; Marble and Moss (2014), poems

Unvollkommenheit; Imperfection (2019), novel

English Translation

Anne Richter, Distant Signs, trans. by Douglas Irving (London: Neem Tree Press, 2019)

Web Links in English

English-language publisher’s author page

Online review of Distant Signs

Newspaper review of Distant Signs

Web Links in German

Comprehensive author CV and list of publications

Heidelberg author CV

German-language publisher (Fremde Zeichen, Roman, mit Blick ins Buch)

German-language publisher (Unvollkommenheit, Roman, mit Blick ins Buch)