Grunberg was born as Arnon Yasha Yves Grünberg on 22 February 1971 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He grew up in a family of Jewish immigrants, originally from Germany. His mother was a survivor of concentration camp Auschwitz. Grunberg attended the Vossius Gymnasium in Amsterdam, but he got expelled in 1988. Before publishing his first novel, he held various odd jobs, and tried his hand at acting in a short film by Dutch avant-garde film maker Cyrus Frisch. From 1990 to 1993, Grunberg had his own publishing house Kasimir, which was financially unsuccessful.
Grunberg made his literary debut in 1994 with the novel Blauwe maandagen (Blue Mondays), which won the Anton Wachterprijs for best debut novel. Critics hailed it as a "grotesque comedy, a rarity in Dutch literature." In 2000, he was the first to win to this debut prize again, but this time under his heteronym Marek van der Jagt, for the novel De geschiedenis van mijn kaalheid (The History of My Baldness).
Grunberg is a prolific and versatile writer. In addition to his many novels, he has written newspaper and magazine columns, essays, poetry, scenarios and plays. His work has been translated into 30 languages. His English publications include frequent blogposts for Words Without Borders and daily posts on his personal website.
The much acclaimed novel Tirza, about a father's obsessive love for his graduating daughter, was Grunberg's first novel to be made into a movie, Tirza, in 2010, after winning the Dutch Libris Prize and the Belgian Golden Owl in 2007. A 2010 national poll of literary critics, academics and writers held by the magazine De Groene Amsterdammer elected Tirza as the "most important novel of the 21st century," over Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones and Ian McEwan's Saturday. In 2009, Grunberg won the Constantijn Huygens Prize for his entire oeuvre and in 2011 the Frans Kellendonk-prijs.
In September 2008, Grunberg published his seventh novel, Onze Oom (Our Uncle). The book presentation took place in Belgian Eupen, as an earlier incident at the ECI Literatuurprijs with A. F. Th. van der Heijden made the author decide to no longer appear in public in the Netherlands. Later that year, Grunberg became guest writer and lecturer at the Leiden University and Wageningen University and Research Centre. In October 2014, he became an honorary fellow at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Amsterdam. His lectures revolve around issues of privacy and surveillance and together with the students he develops a video game. The lecture series coincide with an exhibit on the author's life and work, the materials of which come from his own (literary) archive, which is "on lease" at the university library special collections department, making it into a unique living archive.
In an attempt to understand the creative process, Grunberg wrote his latest novel Het Bestand (which can mean both computer file and truce) while scientists were measuring his brain activity, emotions, and subjective feelings. Using screen capture and physiological measurements such as EEG, GSR and ECG, and subjective questionnaires for the author, scientists correlated the writing of emotionally charged passages with physiological activity. The second phase of the experiment will take place in October and November 2015 in the GrunbergLab at the University of Amsterdam, where volunteers' brain activity will be measured while they are reading the novel under controlled circumstances.
Grunberg is also known for his literary journalism and periods of complete immersion in diverse aspects of society. He has spent time with and written about masseurs at a Romanian resort, patients in a Belgian psychiatric ward, dining car waiters on a Swiss train, and an ordinary Dutch family on vacation. He has also been embedded with Dutch troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and visited Guantánamo Bay. In 2009 his reports were published in a book called Chambermaids and Soldiers.1994 Anton Wachterprijs for Blauwe maandagen
1996 Gouden Ezelsoor for Blauwe maandagen
2000 Anton Wachterprijs for De geschiedenis van mijn kaalheid as Marek van der Jagt
2000 AKO Literature Prize for Fantoompijn
2002 Golden Owl Literature Prize for De mensheid zij geprezen
2004 AKO Literature Prize for The Asylum Seeker
2004 Ferdinand Bordewijk Prize for The Asylum Seeker
2007 Golden Owl Literature Prize for Tirza
2007 Libris Prize for Tirza
2009 Constantijn Huygens Prize for his entire oeuvre