Barbara Köhler was born in Burgstädt, in former East Germany, on 11 April 1959 and grew up in Penig. From 1985 to 1988 she studied at the Johannes R. Becher Literature Institute in Leipzig and began publishing work in magazines.
After the Wall came down, her debut collection, Deutsches Roulette (German Roulette), was published in 1991 by Suhrkamp Verlag, to be followed by many more.
Köhler has been awarded many prizes for her work. She is often experimental in written form and publication style. Her radical reworking of Homer’s Odyssey, titled Niemands Frau, published in 2007 by Suhrkamp, narrates the story from the perspectives of its female characters including Penelope, Odysseus’s wife. (2019)