Friday, 30 May 2014

Georg Büchner Prize to Jürgen Becker

Germany's most important literary award for a writer's entire oeuvre, the Georg Büchner Prize, this year goes to Jürgen Becker. You can read several of his poems at Lyrikline, in German and English (tr. Catherine Hales). The press is rather nonplussed, like myself, because although Becker has been writing for a very long time (he was born in 1932), not many journalists seem to have read his work. Apparently he began with experimental fiction and then moved on to poetry and journals and in 1999 did publish a novel. The judges praised his precise language.

I must admit I haven't read his work. His fellow writer Jochen Schimmang explains why he likes it in the taz (although the piece does include a dig at a popular historian, who "probably wouldn't understand" Becker's poems, which is not one of my criteria for poetry). The Welt critic Tilman Krause, on the other hand, isn't quite as keen and sees the choice as a sign that the academy that awards the prize is full of old-fashioned ancient men (my phrasing) who want to reward the last vestiges of modernism. Becker, who told a news agency he was very surprised by the unexpected honour, will receive €50,000.

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