Sibylle Berg (born 2 June 1968 in Weimar, East Germany) is a German-Swiss author and playwright. She writes novels, essays, short fiction, plays, radio plays, and political columns.
Sibylle Berg was born in 1968 in Weimar as the daughter of a music professor and a librarian.
She was trained as a puppeteer after completing school. In 1984 she applied to leave East Germany, which meant losing her position at the Naumburg puppet theatre. Her application was approved three months later and she was allowed to move to the Federal Republic of Germany.
Berg left Berlin for a three-month course at the Scuola Teatro Dimitri. After returning to Germany, she lived in Hamburg and studied oceanography and political science. She also worked in various professions and began to write. She continued to work as an author for various magazines.
In 1996 Berg moved to Zurich, Switzerland. She has been married since 2004 and sometimes lives in her second home Tel Aviv, where she met her husband. She was granted Swiss citizenship in 2012. Sibylle Berg is known as a supporter of the Straight edge movement.
Berg's first novel, A Few People Search For Happiness And Laugh Themselves To Death, was published in 1997 by Reclam in Leipzig following rejections from around 50 other publishers. It sold over 100,000 copies. Berg then published several more novels with various publishers. Her most recent novels, published by Hanser, were Der Mann schläft (The Man Sleeps) (2009),Vielen Dank für das Leben (Thank You For This Life) (2012), and Der Tag, als meine Frau einen Mann fand (The Day My Wife Found A Husband) (2015). In 2019, Kiepenheuer & Witsch published GRM – Brainfuck, which became a bestseller.
Berg's reading tours regularly feature actors and musicians. In 2012, the tour for the novel Thank You For This Life included contributions from Katja Riemann, Matthias Brandt and the musician and artist Mariya Ocher, and in 2015 the tour for The Day My Wife Found a Husband included Christian Ulmen, August Zirner, Jan Böhmermann and the band Kreidler. For GRM – Brainfuck, Berg created a multimedia reading show with three actors, the rapper T.Roadz, as well as grime stars and Ruff Sqwad founding members Prince Rapid and Slix. GRM brainfuck deals with a neoliberal England after the Brexit. it was for months in the "Spiegel" bestseller list.
For the first productions of her plays, Berg tends to work with the same director over an extended period. This began with a period of work with Niklaus Helbling in Bochum, whose production of Helges Leben (Helge's Life) (2000), was invited to the Mülheim Theatre Festival. This was followed by Schau, da geht die Sonne unter (Look, The Sun Is Going Down)(2003, Bochum), Das wird schon! Nie mehr lieben (It'll Be Alright! Just Never Love Again) (2004, Bochum) as well as Wünsch dir was (Make A Wish) (2006, Schauspielhaus Zurich). The production of Von denen die überleben (Of Those Who Survive) (2008) at the Schauspielhaus Zurich included text, image and sound contributions by the artists Gabríela Friðriksdóttir, Mathilde ter Heijne, Jon Pylypchuk, Jeremias Gotthelf and Erwin Koch. The final collaboration with Niklas Helbling was Nur nachts (Only at Night) (2010) at the Burgtheater in Vienna.
In Stuttgart, Hasko Weber directed Missionen der Schönheit (Missions Of Beauty) (2010), Hauptsache Arbeit! (The Main Thing: Work!) (2010) and, together with Sibylle Berg, Angst reist mit (Fear Travels With Us) (2013).
Since 2013, Berg has been working with the director Sebastian Nübling at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin. The first production, Es sagt mir nichts, das sogenannte Draußen (The So-Called Outside Means Nothing To Me) (2013), was chosen as the 2014 play of the year by Theater Heute magazine. Nübling's production of the sequel Und dann kam Mirna (And Then Came Mirna) received the Friedrich Luft Prize as the "best Berlin and Potsdam production of the year 2015". Her play Wonderland Ave. was invited to the Mülheim Theatertagen 2019.
- Sibylle Berg has long been a Social activist. in 2018 she launched a referendum against insurance companies monitoring individual insurers without the need of any court order.
- Berg is the co-founder of p≡p coop. p≡p foundation advocates Privacy, and Free Software to support Privacy for everyone.
- Sibylle Berg supports the referendumE-ID against Privatization of a digital passport project into private businesses.
- In 2019, In response to man-dominated historiography, Sibylle Berg together with other women published The Canon for the Visibility of Women in Science Art and Literature.
- Sibylle Berg is active in science education. She conducts talks under the title ״Nerds save the world״ in the Swiss magazine Republik.
- She supports the Charter of Digital Fundamental Rights of the European Union, published at the end of November 2016.
- Sibylle Berg is a regular guest at the Re:publica.
Berg has written travel reportages, artist portraits, and sketches for Die Zeit, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Die Presse, among others. She has also been a columnist for Spiegel Online since January 2011, under the title S.P.O.N. – Fragen Sie Frau Sibylle (Ask Ms. Sibylle), publishedweekly until March 2018, and bi-weekly since then. The column has more than 4 million followers. She also conducts a regular interview series for the Swiss online magazine Republik entitled "Nerds Save The World", in which she speaks to specialists from various disciplines.
Sibylle Berg has written the lyrics for several songs by the Swiss singer Sina, and she wrote the text Speed for Phillip Boa and the Voodooclub. Along with Rammstein and Element of Crime, Phillip Boa and the Voodooclub can be heard on the recorded reading of her novel Sex II (1999).
From January 2016 to December 2017 she read her own satirical texts off-air ahead of the introduction of guests on the ZDFneo talk show Schulz & Böhmermann.
In 2018 she collaborated with Simone Meier, Hedwig Richter, Margarete Stokowski and seven others to produce the list Women You Need To Know ,published in August by Spiegel Online and Watson.ch. The canon includes 145 women and three female artists' groups, subdivided into science, technology, research, as well as politics, literature, and art.
Berg has been teaching dramaturgy at the Zurich University of the Arts since 2013.
Sibylle Berg's works have been translated into 34 languages, with her plays alone translated into 26 languages.
Berg's debut novel Ein paar Leute suchen das Glück und lachen sich tot received mixed reviews (the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was negative, for example, while Der Spiegel was positive), but was nevertheless a major success. Stephan Buckheimer wrote a stage version that premiered at the Rampe Theatre in Stuttgart in 1999 and was invited to the Stücke 2000 theatre festival in Oberhausen.
The Bochum-based musician Karsten Riedel has set some of Sibylle Berg's texts to music.
Author and journalist Daniel Schreiber described Sibylle Berg's characters as "full of unfulfilled desires, living in terrible relationships, and equipped with inadequate bodies", which she "forces through the fitness studio of real neo-liberalism and then mercilessly makes them fail."
- 2000: Marburg Literature prize for Amerika
- 2006/07: Stipendium Landis & Gyr Foundation
- 2008: Wolfgang Koeppen Prize
- 2012: City of Zurich prize
- 2014: Play of the year of the magazine Theater heutefor Es sagt mir nichts, das sogenannte Draußen (The So-Called Outside Means Nothing To Me)
- 2015: Friedrich Luft Prize for Und dann kam Mirna (And Then Came Mirna)
- 2016: Hörspielpreis der Kriegsblinden(War Blinded Audio Play Prize) for Und jetzt: Die Welt!(And Now: The World!)
- 2016: Audience Prize Plays. Mülheimer Theatertage NRW for Und dann kam Mirna (And Then Came Mirna) at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin
- 2016: Else-Lasker-Schüler-Dramatikerpreis (Else Lasker-Schüler Dramatists Prize)
- 2017: City of Zurich prize
- 2019: Kasseler Literaturpreis für grotesken Humor (Kassel Literature Prize for Grotesque Humour)
- 2019: Thüringer Literaturpreis
- 2019: Nestroypreis- The author prize for the best theater play
- 2019: Swiss Book Prize for GRM. Brainfuck
- 2020: Swiss Grand Prix Literatur Prize
- 2020: Bertolt Brecht Literature Prize
Berg made her co-directing debut in March 2013 with the first production of her play Angst reist mit (Fear Travels With Us) at the Schauspiel Stuttgart (together with Hasko Weber). In the same year she directed a day-long event at the Berliner Festspiele entitled Ein Tag mit... Sibylle Berg (A Day With... Sibylle Berg). Her play How To Sell A Murder House with Caroline Peters and Marcus Kiepe premiered in October 2015 at the Neumarkt Zurich.