Shortlist: Two nominations that surprised me |

Status: 09/21/2021 5:16 PM

It always feels like the first look at a color bag: Since Tuesday, we’ve known six books shortlisted for the German Book Prize. Maren Aring of Literary Editors talks about how colorful this mix really is.

How was your first look at this colorful bag? Were there any surprises?

Marine Arrange: Two nominations actually surprised me – in both a positive and a negative sense. For example, I was pleased that the jury put Thomas Kunst’s novel on this shortlist. Born in Stralsund in 1965, Thomas Kunst has been writing since the 1980s and publishing with Sorkamp for several years now. But he hasn’t made a major breakthrough yet. “Zandschower Klinken” is set in a fictional village in northeastern Germany, called “Zansibar” by the residents themselves, as a firefighting pond turns into the ocean. It’s all a little weird, but very endearing.

On the other hand, the nomination of Christian Kracht stunned me the book “Eurotrash”, which has received a lot of attention since the spring. This is the sequel to his successful novel “Faserland”: 25 years later, an author novelist – named Christian Kracht – reminisces about a difficult family history. But this criticism of our choice of writers is always a small part of the folklore surrounding these nominations and award ceremonies.

Did that surprise you because you didn’t like “Eurotrash” that much?

Ahring: Personally, I didn’t like him very much. But I think a book that has been on the bestseller list for months now, and is much discussed, doesn’t need to be put on such a list anymore.

More information

The German Book Trade Association has announced the names of the finalists for the German Book Prize 2021. More

Does this shortlist also tell you something about contemporary literature? Is there a trend, for example in terms of topics?

Ahring: For several years there has been a constant tendency for authors to deal with the topic of family. Three out of six titles of this type could also be included in this shortlist, even if they are listed in very different ways. I want to read a quote:

“If you’ve known a person their whole life and only later find out who they really are, it can be hard to understand.”
From the novel “Fatty” by Monica Helfer.

This quote is from Monica Helfer from her novel Fatty, but the two books nominated by Norbert Guchten and Christian Kracht can also be represented. “Fatty” is the second part of a larger biographical project of Monica Helfer. Last year she wrote a book about her mother’s family, and next year there will be a book about her brother. This is a treatise on the life story of her father, a war hero who loved books but didn’t speak much.

And four weeks ago, there were still a relatively large number of titles on the long list on the topic of diversity. But only Mithu Sanyal to make the shortlist is a Dusseldorf native of Polish and Indian descent, who has been repeatedly said to have been struck and nervous by her novel Identitti. So I wrote a rhetorical novel about identity politics, and above all how to deal with it – very objective and very entertaining.

In the long list Interested in “amazing diversity”. And when you read this shortlist like this one, you’ll notice that nothing catches your eye. There is no real excitement: the list is made up of equal numbers, there are older and younger authors, and there is also an immigrant background. In a way this shortlist also looks built. Have you guessed something well-behaved?

Ahring: You can actually get this suspicious that this jury doesn’t want to be accused of anything. Such a search for balance – and I think that’s what the jury is out on – can seem too quick to try. But in principle, I think it’s good that something like this is also taken into account. As long as frame data such as gender, age, and immigration background is no more important than the quality of the books, then I can live with it.

In order not to be a well-behaved selection on this shortlist, they may have also chosen Thomas Kunst. The book is really experimental and fun. Thomas Kunst composes his texts like compositions and doesn’t think much about telling literary stories. He is said to have once said, “If I hear the word ‘conspiracy’, I can spit.”

Does that mean it’s your favorite candy in that colorful bag?

Ahring: Yes, but I don’t think he really won the award. If an author manages to make much headway in his book, which is still unknown, I’m always glad that some books don’t get such great focus otherwise.

In four weeks we will know who will receive this year’s German Book Prize, and with it a €25,000 cash prize. The ceremony will take place on October 18, on the eve of the Frankfurt Book Fair. This seems like a familiar framework at first. What can we expect due to the pandemic?

Ahring: There is already hope. A smaller event is planned at the Kaisersaal of the Römer in Frankfurt, of course with space limited due to Corona rules. The event will also be broadcast. But the good news is: It’s back, the awards ceremony is in existence, tension in the air, perhaps people spontaneously cuddling or tears of joy flowing. We haven’t had that for a long time. And if it all goes like this, which I really hope, it could be a great start for the book fair, which then opens the next day.

led the interview Andrea Schweizer.

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Culture NDR | magazine | 09/21/2021 | 6:00 pm

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