Sunday, 18 March 2012

Leipzig Book Prize to Wolfgang Herrndorf

Hooray! The fiction award from the Leipzig Book Fair goes to Wolfgang Herrndorf's rollercoaster secret-agents-in-the-desert novel Sand. You can read my review here. His editor was very happy indeed and didn't know the results in advance this time, allegedly. I have official dispensation to write that.

Without in any way meaning to detract from Herrndorf's literary achievements, I have detected a pattern: if you get nominated twice, you're highly likely to win the second time around. The same happened to Clemens Meyer with his short story collection Die Nacht, die Lichter. Sand is probably the most readable of the five nominated titles this year, with some of them being a tad "out there", and was certainly the readers' favourite. Incidentally, I heard at the fair that translation rights to his previous book Tschick have sold to the UK as well as the US. Double hooray!

The translation award went to Christina Viragh for her rendering of Péter Nádas' Parallelgeschichten. It's 1728 pages long and took five years to translate. If you read German I'd recommend taking a look at her recent piece about how she managed it without going crazy, in the trade mag Börsenblatt.

The non-fiction prize went to Jörg Baberowski for his book on Stalin and violence, Verbrannte Erde. The judges commented on the book, which I know nothing about: "The book's thesis is that the project of Bolshevism offered a justification for the mass murder. But it did not prescribe it. It was Stalin, a psychopath and impassioned man of violence, who smothered the dream of the new man in the blood of millions." Baberowski was rather sweet at the awards ceremony, thanking his wife for sharing the family home with Stalin for several years and promising it was all over now.  

Next year a lot of the judges will be replaced (they serve a three-year sentence). I wonder if that will influence the choice of titles, and indeed winners - we shall see.


Tony said...

Thanks for the update! I'd like to read 'Sand' (but I'll wait for a cheaper version to appear...).

kjd said...


scott davidson said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.