Michael Henry Heim was born in New York on January 21, 1943. He received an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and a doctorate in Slavic languages from Harvard University. He was fluent in Czech, French, German, Italian, Russian and Serbian/Croatian and possessed a reading knowledge of six more languages. He became a professor of Slavic languages at the University California at Los Angeles in 1972 and served as chairman of the Slavic languages department from 1999 to 2003. He was known for his translations of works by Gunter Grass, Milan Kundera, Thomas Mann and Anton Chekhov. He received numerous awards for his work including the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize in 2005, the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation in 2009, and the PEN Translation Prize in 2010. He died from complications of melanoma on September 29, 2012 at the age of 69.
Michael Cunningham was born November 6, 1952 in Cincinnati, Ohio and grew up in Pasadena, California. He received a B.A. in English literature from Stanford University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Iowa. Cunningham is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993 and a Whiting Writers' Award in 1995. In 1999, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for his novel, The Hours, which was later made into an Oscar-winning 2002 movie of the same name starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore. Cunningham taught at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts and in the creative writing M.F.A. program at Brooklyn College. He is a senior lecturer of creative writing at Yale University.
Thomas Mann was born into a well-to-do upper class family in Lubeck, Germany. His mother was a talented musician and his father a successful merchant. From this background, Mann derived one of his dominant themes, the clash of views between the artist and the merchant. Mann's novel, Buddenbrooks (1901), traces the declining fortunes of a merchant family much like his own as it gradually loses interest in business but gains an increasing artistic awareness. Mann was only 26 years old when this novel made him one of Germany's leading writers. Mann went on to write The Magic Mountain (1924), in which he studies the isolated world of the tuberculosis sanitarium. The novel was based on his wife's confinement in such an institution. Doctor Faustus (1947), his masterpiece, describes the life of a composer who sells his soul to the devil as a price for musical genius. Mann is also well known for Death in Venice (1912) and Mario the Magician (1930), both of which portray the tensions and disturbances in the lives of artists. His last unfinished work is The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man (1954), a brilliantly ironic story about a nineteenth-century swindler. An avowed anti-Nazi, Mann left Germany and lived in the United States during World War II. He returned to Switzerland after the war and became a celebrated literary figure in both East and West Germany. In 1929 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.