The jury explains that there are six novels that at first glance have nothing to do with each other. Four male and two male authors are in the final. But are their works really that different?
It’s about German-Turkish realities, a toxic love story or growing up during the years of reunification. Six novels made it into the final round of the German Book Prize – now the jury announced the eagerly awaited shortlist in Frankfurt.
This also includes an Austrian coming-of-age story, a search for traces of one’s own roots and a bitter satire. The nominees are Necati Öziri, Terézia Mora, Anne Rabe, Tonio Schachinger, Sylvie Schenk and Ulrike Sterblich.
At first glance, the books have nothing to do with each other, explains jury spokeswoman Katharina Teutsch. “They take place at different times, describe different milieus in different countries and find the most convincing means of expression for this.”
The most prominent name on the list is certainly Terézia Mora, who won the book prize in 2013. The Hungarian-born author, who also works as a translator, is present this time with her novel “Muna or Half of Life”, which tells of a poisoned love. “From the very first sentence, Mora’s straightforward, laconic prose develops a pull that one cannot escape,” said the jury.
Two newcomers among the finalists
But two newcomers are also represented: The Berlin author Necati Öziri – who also works in the theater – depicts German-Turkish realities in his debut “Vatermark” and at the same time captures the sound of the street. The jury found the novel to be angry, quick-witted, funny and tender. The young heroes were looking for orientation in a society “in which they never really arrive.”
In “The Possibility of Happiness” Anne Rabe tells of the migration from the vanished GDR to the West. There is the childhood on the East German periphery, growing up in the chaos of the reunification and post-reunification periods and the escalation of violence in the 1990s. The jurors praise the sharp analysis of Rabe’s prose debut. It is “a stirring contribution to current debates about the origins of violence and misanthropy.”
The coming-of-age novel “Echtzeitalter” tells the story of Viennese high school student Till. It’s about the disintegration of the family, friendships, first love and the diabolical class teacher. Tonio Schachinger, who lives in Vienna and was born in India in 1992, “succeeds in the feat of being a coming-of-age novel that is both sensitive and subtle,” said the jury. “Stylistically brilliant, but never intrusive.”
Facts and fiction
With “Maman” the French-German writer Sylvie Schenk embarks on a search for clues that leads to the life story of her mother, her family and her own roots. The author, born in 1944, artfully interweaves facts and fiction. “The result is a quiet, powerful text that attempts to explore what we call origin without sentimentality, but with great empathy and historical curiosity,” said the jurors.
And the Berlin political scientist and author Ulrike Sterblich achieved “a single furious ride” with “Drifter”. According to the jury, it is a bitter satire on the literary world, the PR industry, art, social media, stock managers and hero worship. At the same time, the book tells of a deep friendship between men. The novel is “a masterful story about the great nothing.”
As different as the works appear, if you put all six of them next to each other, they would inevitably start talking to each other, explains the jury spokeswoman. “This conversation is about our influences: about upbringing and social background, about political ideologies, about dramatic system changes and the hardships of migration – about everything that defines and challenges our present,” says Teutsch. “This is written about with so much insight, but also wit and warmth, that after reading this shortlist we ask ourselves not only where we come from, but also where we want to go.”
This year, the seven-member jury viewed 196 novels from 113 German-language publishers. In August she announced her pre-selection, the longlist comprising 20 titles. The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony on October 16th, at the start of the Frankfurt Book Fair.
The book prize is awarded by the Book Culture and Reading Promotion Foundation of the German Book Trade Association. It is considered one of the most important awards in the industry and has been presented since 2005. The prize is worth a total of 37,500 euros: the winner receives 25,000 euros, the other authors on the shortlist each receive 2,500 euros.
Last year the prize went to Kim de l’Horizon for the novel “Blood Book”. (dpa)
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