Author to Know: Ottessa Moshfegh

Ottessa Moshfegh is an American author and novelist. She has written three novels: McGlue (2014), Eileen (2015), and My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018). Eileen won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and was a fiction finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her most recent book, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, was released to widespread critical acclaim. Moshfegh is also the winner of Stanford University’s Wallace Stegner Fellowship, The Paris Review‘s Plimpton Prize for Fiction, The Story Prize, and the Fence Modern Prize in Prose.

Ottessa Moshfegh was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Croatian and Iranian parents. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Barnard College in 2002. Shortly after graduating, she moved to China to teach English. To make extra money, she worked a side job at a Chinese punk bar. After a couple of years overseas, Moshfegh returned to New York City, taking a job at Overlook Press. She eventually returned to academia, earning an MFA from Brown University.

Moshfegh is known for her straightforward yet graceful prose. Seemingly effortless, she constructs semi-dystopian worlds based clearly on our own and assumed political trajectory. On her own writing, Moshfegh once told Vice, “[It] lets people scrape up against their own depravity, but at the same time it’s very refined… it’s like seeing Kate Moss take a s—.”

Moshfegh’s writing has also appeared in dozens of publications, including The Paris Review, Granta, The New Yorker, The Baffler, and Vice. First-time Moshfegh readers should pick up My Year of Rest and Relaxation, one of 2018’s boldest reads. The novel details a woman’s efforts to hide from the disasters of the world by embarking on an extended hibernation; with the help of a psychiatrists, she sets out to sleep for an entire year. Funny, poignant, and timely, My Year of Rest and Relaxation is an excellent read for the news-obsessed, twenty-first century American.