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Culture

German Book Prize announces shortlist

Are you in search of a good read? Six books have been nominated for the German Book Prize, which recognizes contemporary German-language literature. The winner will be announced on October 8. DW presents the shortlist.

From Portugal to Cuba to the Maghreb region, the books nominated for this year's German Book Prize take us to all corners of the world. Among them are stories of those who break away and those who return home. In addition to insightful family novels, experimental adventure stories also dominate the shortlist.

A jury of literary critics reviewed 162 recently published German-language novels and selected their favorite six. The big surprise this year is that not a single debut author is on the shortlist. Two of the nominees have already been shortlisted for the prize.

The jury focused on well established, if not world-famous authors - except for one recognized best-selling writer.

Ernst Augustin: "Robinsons blaues Haus" (Robinson's Blue House), C.H. Beck Verlag

Ernst Augustin

Ernst Augustin

At the age of 84, Ernst Augustin is the eldest nominee on the shortlist and one of the most important writers of the fantasy genre. In his most recent novel, the Munich-based author and psychiatrist accompanies a modern-day Robinson on his travels through time and space.

The main character is a crafty banker with plenty of experience in risky transactions and, as a result, is on the run. From New York to Warsaw, he has set up tiny rooms where he disappears into the virtual world. Robinson is a driven maverick whose life shifts between truth and delusion.

A mysteriously told tale, Augustin's novel contains false floors and trap doors, leading the reader through a labyrinth there to get lost in.

Wolfgang Herrndorf: "Sand," Rowohlt Berlin

Wolfgang Herrndorf

Wolfgang Herrndorf

His books are like reading films. Wolfgang Herrndorf, born in 1965, is celebrated as one of the best writers of his generation. His roadmovie novel "Tschick" was a best-seller, and "Sand," set somewhere in the Maghreb region of North Africa in 1972, is its grim counterpart.

A murder takes place in a hippie community. Elderly eccentrics, mysterious women and a man who has lost his memory appear on the scene. In a story that fits somewhere between flower-power romanticism and espionage, Herrndorf depicts the vastness of the desert.

The author has withdrawn from the public spotlight since being diagnosed with a brain tumor, but has continued working. "Sand" has already claimed the Leipzig Book Prize this year - a second major award would be sensational.

Ursula Krechel: "Landgericht" (District Court), Jung und Jung Verlag

Ursula Krechel

Ursula Krechel

Ursula Krechel, mainly known as a poet, is the only woman on the shortlist this year. Her second novel, "Landgericht," explores Germany's past. After years in exile in Cuba, a Jewish judge returns to Germany after World War II. Both his homeland and his family have become unfamiliar to him.

Like a kaleidoscope, Krechel draws together the various aspects of the protagonists' life: his lonely wife, left behind in Germany, a man who can no longer deal with daily life, and distant children who live with foster parents in Great Britain.

In 1950s Germany, in the middle of a post-war economic boom, there was no room for such a family still working through the trials of the previous decade. "Landgericht" takes the shine off of Germany's economic miracle and shows the tiny cracks hiding behind it.

Clemens J. Setz: "Indigo," Suhrkamp Verlag

Clemens J. Setz

Clemens J. Setz

At 29, Clemens J. Setz has been heralded in the press as the "wunderkind" of contemporary Austrian literature. Setz is the youngest of this year's nominees, but was shortlisted once before, in 2009.

In his newest novel, a puzzling disease - indigo syndrome - plagues a boarding school and students disappear in mysterious ways. One young math teacher, named Clemens Setz, starts doing research on the illness and is promptly fired. The Graz-based author plays with identities, including his own, and the result is daring tale that will surprise readers.

Stephan Thome: "Fliehkräfte" (Centrifugal Forces), Suhrkamp Verlag

Stephan Thome

Stephan Thome

Stephan Thome was also shortlisted for the German Book Prize in 2009 and is back with his second novel, "Fliehkräfte." Born in 1972, the trained Sinologist portrays the mid-life crisis of a philosophy professor in his latest book.

The professor's grown-up daughter has moved out and his wife has a new job in another city. The long-distance marriage and troubles at the university cause the professor to stumble. On a long trip to Portugal, he decides to reorganize his life and goes on a journey to the sea - and to himself.

Ulf Erdmann Ziegler: "Nichts Weisses" (Nothing White), Suhrkamp Verlag

Ulf Erdmann Ziegler

Ulf Erdmann Ziegler

This novel is about the stuff that literature is made of - the letters and words that make up entire universes. "Nichts Weisses" is the story of a typographer who is dreaming of the perfect font.

At the same time, Ulf Erdmann Ziegler depicts the social panorama of West Germany in the 1970s and 1980s - a world of new housing developments and liberal child rearing with a soundtrack of New Wave music.

The author, born in 1959, precisely chronicles his own generation with a particular liking for relics and turning points. The end of the novel foreshadows the end of Johannes Gutenberg's universe - that is, the end of the printed book - and the dawn of the digital age. Nothing will be as it was before.

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