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German Book Prize nominees 2016
German Book Prize nominees 2016

A Look at the Shortlist for the 'German Booker': The Deutscher Buchpreis

Picture of Culture Trip Literature
Updated: 21 September 2016
The German Book Prize (Deutscher Buchpreis) is Deutschland’s equivalent to America’s National Book Award, Britain’s Man Booker, and France’s Prix Goncourt. Awarded every October since 2005, the prize is eligible to any book written in German, regardless of country (past winners have included one Austrian and one Hungarian). This year’s longlist of twenty nominees has been whittled down to a shortlist of a male-heavy six, and includes but one woman, two writers under 35, and a Young Adult (YA) novelist, among others. The award ceremony will be held on October 17, enough time to perhaps forge a translated excerpt, or if you’re fortunate to be bi-lingual, read a couple of the selections.

 

Eva Schmidt |© Markus Gmeiner

Eva Schmidt |© Markus Gmeiner

 

Eva Schmidt, Ein langes Jahr (A Long Year)

A multiple award-winner in the late 1980s, the Austrian writer makes a highly-anticipated return to the scene, 19 years after her last novel was published. A Long Year in an impressionistic little book, restrained in prose and melancholy in bearing, bringing together a trove of characters living in and around Schmidt’s city of Bergenz. 38 different perspectives and storylines sometimes intersect, at others remain isolated, in what makes for a comforting and sad work.

 

 

Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker | © Jürgen Bauer

Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker | © Jürgen Bauer

Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker, Fremde Seele, dunkler Wald (Dark Forest, Foreign Soul)

At only 33, Austrian writer Kaiser-Mühlecker has an enviable list of awards that would make a more veteran writer green with envy. He was hailed as a vibrant new voice on the German literary scene with the publication of his first novel Der lange Gang über die Stationen (The Long Passage Through The Stations). His newest novel Dark Forest, Foreign Soul is a poly-narrative regarding the plight of a family—a shellshocked soldier, his father and his failing farm, and a younger brother who tries to keep everything and everyone in a state of stability. The novel’s sobering narrative often gives way to more meditative digressions on kinship and hope.

 

Bodo Kirchhoff | © © Laura J Gerlach

Bodo Kirchhoff | © Laura J Gerlach

Bodo Kirchhoff, Widerfahrnis (Encounter)

Kirchhoff has been actively publishing novels and screenplays since the 1970s. His 2002 novel, Shundroman (Sand Novel) was lauded for its combination of a romping thriller plot infused with Helleristic satire. Kirchhoff newest Encounter is a much calmer work, with a subtler quirkiness,  in which a retired publisher living in a small village becomes smitten with an unsuccessful milliner. They begin a youthful-charged romance and, throwing caution to the wind, head off on a road trip in which they discover each other’s past while encounter an unknown future together where decisions are made at a whim, including one to pick up a mute hitchhiker.

 

André Kubiczek | © Susanne Schleyer/autorenarchiv.de

André Kubiczek | © Susanne Schleyer/autorenarchiv.de

André Kubizcek, Skizze eines Sommers (A Sketch of Summer)

The son of a former East German political scientist and a Laosian immigrant, André Kubizcek is among the last generation of children born within global communism (Laos remains a staunchly socialist country). His themes have largely focused on children coming of age behind the Iron Curtain. With A Sketch of Summer Kubizcek’s has taken taken this long-running interest and wrapped them into a bildungsroman in which a boy living in Potsdam in 1985 has his first brush with love. The novel is the only YA contender on the short list.

 

Thomas Melle | © Dagmar Morath

Thomas Melle | © Dagmar Morath

 

Thomas Melle, Die Welt im Rücken (The World at Your Back)

A longtime sufferer of bipolar disorder, Thomas Melle uses this book to explores his experience with the illness in some depth. Not strictly a novel, it is a hard-hitting account of his ups and downs as a man once harassed by episodes of psychotic carelessness and numbing depression (he is now, and has been for some years, on lithium and valproic acid to combat these swings). ‘Radical and painful’, the book aims to paint an utterly realistic portrait of the condition, and take the reader wherever it leads, both literally and figuratively.

 

Philipp Winkler |© Kat Kaufmann

Philipp Winkler |© Kat Kaufmann

Philipp Winkler, Hool

Winkler’s first novel comes on the heel of a number of successful short stories — most notably, ’Summer Day in Beirut’ won the Colbin Prize in 2008 — and centers on the struggles of a Hanoverian hooligan, Heiko Kolbe. Life is bleak (his girlfriend is a heroin addict, his father a drunkard tied to young Thai, and his mother gone), vulgar, and violent, the whole peppered with hints of humor. Described by one reviewer as a ‘negative Bildungsroman’, by virtue of the main character’s absolute refusal to change, this is a vivid novel about a subculture too often ignored in Germany.