John Irving

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John Irving in Cologne on September 14, 2010

John Winslow Irving (born March 2, 1942 in Exeter , New Hampshire ) is an American- Canadian writer .


John Irving was as John Wallace Blunt, Jr. born. He was named after his father, a fighter pilot . However, his mother, Helen Frances Winslow, a nurse , divorced before their son was born. The name was changed at the age of six after his stepfather, Colin Franklin Newell Irving, a professor of Russian history, adopted him. John began wrestling and writing at the age of 14 , but had great difficulties at school because of his dyslexia . At the age of 19 he knew what he wanted: wrestling and writing novels. (Quote: "Writing is like wrestling. You need discipline and technique. You have to approach a story like an opponent." No evidence )

Irving studied English literature at the University of Pittsburgh from 1961 , then, in 1962/1963, spent two semesters in Vienna , where he had the idea for his first novel: He spent his time in the zoo and in coffee houses (because it was too cold in his room was) drove motorcycle, read the Tin drum by Günter Grass and wrote, inspired by it, his first book , let the bears go! , which appeared in 1968. After his time in Vienna, Irving went to the University of New Hampshire , where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1965 . He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa in 1967 and then took up a teaching position at a college in Vermont .

Since, after his third novel, he was of the opinion that his previous publisher was not giving him enough support, he brought out his fourth book Garp und wie he saw the world with another publisher and thus achieved his breakthrough. The novel tells the life story of the writer TS Garp and his feminist mother. The success was so overwhelming that Irving was henceforth able to devote himself entirely to writing and gave up teaching.

In 1999 he wrote the screenplay for his novel God's Work and Devil's Contribution himself, after he had distanced himself from the film for his novel Owen Meany the year before and had the title changed to Simon Birch . Irving has received several awards for his script, including an Oscar .

As a decoupling from the novel Widow for a Year (1998), his first children's book appeared in 2003, A noise, as if someone tries not to make a sound with drawings by Tatjana Hauptmann .

John Irving has two sons from his first marriage and is in his second marriage since 1987 to his agent, with whom he has another son. He lives alternately in Vermont and Toronto . In 2019, he also took on Canadian citizenship.

Themes and motifs

The most unlikely, often extremely bizarre and macabre incidents, which at the same time turn into the hilarious, characterize John Irving's novels. The tone is tragicomic; social taboos are broken. These multiple exaggerations and distortions lead to grotesque satires on American society. Another main topic are the ups and downs of interpersonal relationships, which he mostly portrays bluntly and blatantly: “... I've always written about people who have to live with any kind of loss - regardless of whether they have lost a part of their body, a loved one or Children. If there are topics that repeat themselves over and over again in almost all of my books, it is the topics of loss and violence that happen bizarre and completely unexpected. Every damn day I see things in my imagination that are more terrible than September 11th . "

Some motifs are often found in Irving's novels: physical sports (wrestling, football); Recurring regional references or locations (Maine, New Hampshire, Staten Island, also Europe, especially Vienna and Amsterdam); Characteristics of characters (shy men, strong female characters, sons growing up without a father, prostitutes); Relationships (sexual relationships between older women and younger men, incest, often homoerotic relationships) and milieus (red light milieus, boarding schools, hotels / guest houses, circus) as well as writing, motorcycles, religion and again and again bears. Some critics accuse Irving of writing very autobiographically and repeating himself over and over again; a problem that he grapples with for a year in Widow .

Irving's greatest literary role models are Charles Dickens and Günter Grass .

Awards and honors


On the day before his 70th birthday in 2012 , a German documentary about Irving's life was released in cinemas under the title John Irving and how he sees the world .



more books

  • 1993 Trying to Save Piggy Sneed. German by Dirk van Gunsteren 1993: Rescue attempt for Piggy Sneed , ISBN 3-257-22779-5 . (Short stories and an essay on Charles Dickens)
  • 1996 The Imaginary Girlfriend. German by Irene Rumler 1996: The Imaginary Girlfriend , ISBN 3-257-23308-6 . (On wrestling and writing - an autobiography)
  • 1999 My Movie Business. German by Irene Rumler 2000: My life, my novels, my films , ISBN 3-257-06238-9 . (About his experience in filming his novel God's Work and the Devil's Contribution )
  • 2002 trip to Germany. ISBN 3-257-70176-4 . (A mood report on Germany in the nineties)
  • 2003 A sound like trying not to make a sound. ISBN 3-257-01102-4 . (Children's book, from the first part of the novel Widow for a Year , with drawings by Tatjana Hauptmann)

Film adaptations

In the film adaptation of Garp and How He Saw the World, Irving played a supporting role as a referee directing a school match, and a station master in God's Work and the Devil's Contribution .


  • Hartmut Braun: Literature as a distorting mirror. Metafiction in the novels of John Irving. Der Andere Verl., Osnabrück 2004, ISBN 3-89959-197-6 .
  • Barbara Sinic: The socially critical function of the grotesque. Analyzed using the novels by Vonnegut, Irving, Boyle, Grass, Rosendorfer and Widmer. Frankfurt am Main u. a .: Lang 2003. (= Viennese contributions to comparative literature and Romance studies; 12) ISBN 3-631-50649-X .
  • Elke Weiß: John Irving and the art of storytelling. Frankfurt am Main u. a .: Lang 2002. (= Bremen contributions to the history of literature and ideas; 37) ISBN 3-631-38889-6 .
  • John Irving: The Imaginary Girlfriend. From wrestling and writing. Zurich: Diogenes Verlag 2002, ISBN 3-257-23308-6 .

Web links

Commons : John Irving  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Deborah Dundas: 'Ending up here is a love story.' American writer John Irving becomes a Canadian citizen | The Star. In: December 13, 2019, accessed December 14, 2019 .
  2. John Irving's 'Avenue of Mysteries' . ( [accessed July 9, 2018]).
  3. Academy Members. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed January 16, 2019 .
  4. Rochus Wolff: John Irving and how he sees the world. In: Retrieved May 11, 2013 .
  5. The Door In The Floor , the first part of the book Widow for a year