Walter Abish was born in Vienna, Austria. Much of his childhood was spent in China. He became an American citizen in 1960. Abish's fascination with human communication led him to write works focused on the use of language. His first novel, Alphabetical Africa (1974), was an experiment in alliteration, moving forward and backward through the alphabet while telling the story. Throughout the 1970s, he wrote short stories that demonstrated a variety of unique writing formats. His second novel, How German Is It (1980), a more conventionally written book, received the 1981 PEN/Faulkner award, an honor bestowed by his peers. In Eclipse Fever (1993), Abish continues to play with language, this time within the context of a suspense story about Mexico's social and intellectual elite. Abish lives in New York where he is a lecturer in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.