Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Maurice à la Poule Takes French Prize

The Prix Femina Étranger for foreign novels has gone to the Swiss-born and Berlin-based German-language writer Matthias Zschokke for Maurice mit Huhn (in Patricia Zurcher's translation Maurice à la Poule).

I like the idea of the prize: an all-female jury chooses books by men or women. And I like the idea of the novel, of which Niels Höpfner writes in Titel-Magazin:

There are a lot of things that Zschokke's Maurice mit Huhn isn't: not one of the family sagas so popular with readers; not a Bildungsroman; not a psychological thriller; not a relationship crisis opus; not a 1989 concoction; not a generation report; not a corny coming to terms with the past. But what is it? At most, Maurice tries to come to terms with the present, and not without many a sigh.

The book is set in Berlin's Wedding district, a neighbourhood slowly decaying into abject poverty, and is apparently a wonderful, melancholy episodic novel, best read with a cello playing in the background. It has not been translated into English.

Zschokke has been writing since the early 1980s and is a bit of an insider's tip - but has won a whole 17 awards for his books, plays and films.

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