The polyphonic portrait of a guest worker family and two women's fates. A picaresque novel about a writer and a philosophical comedy about a painter. A non-binary person in search of a language of their own. The shortlist for the German Book Prize is particularly diverse this year.
The nominees reflect the thematic and stylistic diversity of contemporary German-language literature, said jury spokeswoman Miriam Zeh on Tuesday in Frankfurt. The six titles convinced the jury with their aesthetic uniqueness. "They have one thing in common: artistic absoluteness."
Feeling of Homelessness in "Djinns"
In "Dschinns" (Carl Hanser), Fatma Aydemir tells the story of a guest worker family. The father literally worked himself to death, the relatives travel to the funeral. The author, who was born in Karlsruhe in 1986, takes turns letting the family members have their say. As different as their views are, they share a feeling of homelessness.
Aydemir reveals the secrets of the family "precisely and sensitively", as the jury finds. The book deals with a part of recent German history "that has so far hardly been found in literature".
Destiny in the provinces in "Next Door"
"Next door" by Kristine Bilkau (Luchterhand) revolves around the fate of two women in the northern German provinces. One leads a loving partnership, but suffers from her unfulfilled desire to have children. The other, mother of three sons, wants to retire from working life.
The jury found the Hamburg author's "subtly told" novel "masterful". It shows "what abysses lurk in a seemingly everyday life". The strength of the book lies "in the details and the small tipping points".
Also in Daniela Dröscher's "Lies about my mother" (Kiepenheuer
The jury called the book a "literary microsociology". The text is repeatedly interrupted "by essayistic insertions".
Jan Factor describes in "Idiot" (Kiepenheuer
According to the jury, the novel "combines contemporary history and life history in a very special way". "Factor pulls off the great feat of creating wit with a story about grief." The book is "a provocative, sometimes disturbing picaresque novel".
In Eckhart Nickel's "Spitzweg" (Piper), an art philistine becomes an ardent admirer of the painter of the same name. The author, born in Frankfurt am Main in 1966, tells of a school friendship, a love triangle and the theft of a painting.
"A great, intelligent read," the jury found, "a masterful reflection on the relationship between art and life". The book plays with exaggerated erudition, convoluted sentences and antiquated vocabulary. Despite all the philosophical depth, the novel is fast-paced and comedic.
Non-binary main character in "Blood Book"
Kim de l'Horizon, born near Bern in 1992, identifies as non-binary. The main character of the novel "Blood Book" (Dumont) is also called Kim and feels neither exclusively male nor female. When the grandmother loses her dominance to dementia, Kim begins to form her own language.
"Since there is no straight path in this mixture, the form of the novel cannot be linear," stated the jury. Sometimes the language is experimental and daring, sometimes rough and obscene, sometimes delicate and intense: "A novel that touches and moves."
The jury viewed a total of 233 titles. The members were impressed by the "linguistic brilliance and formal innovative strength" of the authors. "They take a stance with their books, show themselves to be argumentative and at the same time open to dialogue." The shortlist invites the reader "to enter into an exchange and to readjust their own view of the world".
The German Book Prize has been awarded since 2005 and is considered one of the most important awards in the industry. The winner receives 25,000 euros, the other authors on the shortlist each receive 2,500 euros. In 2021, the prize went to Antje Rávik Strubel for her novel "Blaue Frau". The winner for 2022 will be announced on October 17, at the start of the Frankfurt Book Fair.