Friday, 9 July 2010

Büchner Prize to Reinhard Jirgl; Mann Prize to Christa Wolf

Often referred to as the most prestigious literary award for German writers, this year's Georg Büchner Prize has been awarded to Reinhard Jirgl, as Deutsche Welle reports. His most recent novel Die Stille, longlisted for last year's German Book Prize, looks at a hundred years of family history through a photo album, using Jirgl's very own difficult orthography. Der Spiegel gets its prizes muddled up and proclaims:

In view of the bestseller success for the winners of the German Book Prize in the past years (including Uwe Tellkamp and Julia Franck), the jury's decision in favour of Jirgl is a consistent return to a literature beyond the realms of the easily sellable: Jirgl's books are not easy to consume - or, as the academy puts it in its press release, are "protected by the varnish of an avantgardist writing gesture."

Quite. The Büchner Prize honours a writer's entire work and comes with €40,000.

And seeing as the Germans have so few literary awards, the city of Lübeck and the Bavarian Academy of Arts have decided to create a new one, by the name of Thomas Mann Prize. You'd think it might have been taken already, but apparently not. Oh, actually it was, I've just realised, but as it was awarded by the city of Lübeck they would appear to have dibs on the name. The Thomas Mann Prize is dead, long live the Thomas Mann Prize.

Anyway, they've awarded it to Christa Wolf, again for her life's work. The jury said she:

"critically and self-critcally questions the struggles, hopes and errors of her time in her life's work, describing them with deep moral seriosity and exploring them into essential confrontations with myth and humanity."

Wolf's current big thick book, Stadt der Engel, looks at her time spent in Los Angeles in the early 90s, when it turned out that she had two Stasi files, one as an observee and an earlier, far thinner one as an observer. I must say this "German writer goes to America" genre is not one I'm overly fond of, and I shan't be reading the book.

Wolf takes home €25,000 for her trouble.


Harvey Morrell said...

Speaking of Jirgl's orthography, I once exchanged !! a copy of Die Unvollendeten || because of ?! I thought the typesetter had messed up by placing random >> marks in the text of the book I'd purchased and it was driving me crazy.

Found out later that it was intentional. Still drives me crazy, however.

David said...

There's one book in the "German writer goes to America" genre I can recommend: Walter Kempowski's "Letzte Gruesse". It is hilarious, Kempowski at his most cantankerous.

kjd said...

Harvey, I rather enjoy Jirgl's orthography, but of course it would make it quite tricky to translate. Although it might be quite a fun challenge.

David, thanks for the tip.