Aglaja Veteranyi (1962–2002) was born into a family of circus performers in Bucharest and appeared in the circus ring from a very young age. The family fled to Switzerland in 1967, but travelled extensively through Europe, Africa and South America in the subsequent years.
After returning to Switzerland in 1978, Veteranyi taught herself to read and write German before training at Zurich’s Schauspiel-Gemeinschaft drama school between 1979 and 1982. She set up two experimental performance groups: “Die Wortpumpe” with René Oberholzer (between 1993 and 1996) and “Die Engelmaschine” with Jens Nielsen (between 1996 and 2002). In addition, she published short prose works in anthologies, magazines and newspapers. Her autobiographical debut novel “Warum das Kind in der Polenta kocht” (“Why the Child is Cooking in the Polenta”, 2001) was published in 1999 and earned her international acclaim. Sadly, she took her own life in Zurich in February 2002. The novel “Das Regal der letzten Atemzüge” (2002) and the volume of short prose works “Vom geräumten Meer, den gemieteten Socken und Frau Butter” (2004) were published posthumously. They were followed more recently by two volumes containing her unpublished material and notes that she left behind: “Café Papa” (2018) and “Wörter statt Möbel” (2018).
Veteranyi’s extensive estate is testament to her diverse work. It contains manuscripts and draft texts and plays, as well as unusual pieces such as a wedding dress covered in writing, which Veteranyi used at a performance in Zurich in summer 2001. There is also a large collection of literary notebooks, in which she developed ideas and wrote about her own works. And she left her mark in other places, too: for example, Jörg Steiner’s estate contains cards from Veteranyi in which she imaginatively combines words and images.