The German author Valeria Gordeev won this year's Ingeborg Bachmann Prize with her extremely precise language and narrative style. The writer from Tübingen prevailed on Sunday with one of the calmest and most action-poor texts that had been presented during the three days of the reading competition in Klagenfurt, Austria. Gordeev won by just one jury point ahead of the Viennese author Anna Felnhofer, who also captivated the jury with a psychogram.
In the story "He cleans", Gordeev linguistically dissects a man's cleanliness neurosis, but does not present him as a clinical case, but as a devoted person who cares for his mother and sister. Jury chairwoman Insa Wilke praised the text on Sunday as a "plea for sensitivity". "Valeria Gordeev shows what could look like a cleaning mania in its existential dimension," added Wilke.
The author herself is not a cleanliness fanatic
The text is part of a novel that Gordeev has been working on for several years, she revealed in an interview with 3sat after receiving the main prize of 25,000 euros at the 47th Days of German-language Literature. She herself is not a cleanliness fanatic, she clarified. "I'm afraid it's quite the opposite for me," she said.
Gordeev's parents emigrated from the Soviet Union in the late 1970s, and their daughter was born in Tübingen in 1986. The author also works as an illustrator and songwriter. Excerpts from her planned debut novel, in which Soviet history and the Russian present are interwoven, were published in 2018 under the title "The cicada slips out of its shiny golden shell".
Gordeev received the Bachmann Prize of the city of Klagenfurt, which is endowed with 25,000 euros, after an extremely close jury decision. While Gordeev received 19 points, the jurors awarded 18 points to Felnhofer and her text "Catching fish". In it, she describes the events in a way that is as precise as Gordeev's. It follows the torment of a boy with facial recognition disabilities who is abused by both his drinking mother and his classmates. The author and clinical psychologist Felnhofer was awarded the Deutschlandfunk Prize (12,500 euros).
Two prizes for Martin Piekar
Martin Piekar, on the other hand, was able to convince the audience the most. With his affectionate and harrowing homage to his deceased Polish mother, the poet from Bad Soden am Taunus not only won the Kelag Prize (10,000 euros) awarded by the jury. The emotional and personal text also prevailed in the online vote for the audience award (7,000 euros). Laura Leupi from Zurich received the 3sat prize (7500 euros) for a ruthless text performance entitled "The Alphabet of Sexualized Violence".
During the literary competition, 12 authors from Germany, Austria and Switzerland read their texts from Thursday to Saturday. This time there were two new members on the seven-strong jury: the German cultural scientist, journalist and author Mithu Sanyal ("Identitti") and the Swiss literary scholar Thomas Strässle.