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International Literature Prize jury, Copyright: HKW/Santiago Engelhardt
Image: HKW/Santiago Engelhardt

Summer reading

Sabine Peschel / ad
June 2, 2015

If you're looking for some new book titles but are tired of frivolous reads, here are some global heavyweights to keep an eye on. The International Literature Prize has shortlisted these deep, innovative novels.


Translations of roughly 4,000 works of fiction are published annually in Germany. Not all of them are new editions, however, and comics are also included in these statistics. The shortlist of the International Literature Prize, awarded for the seventh time this year by the House of World Cultures (HKW) and the foundation Elementarteilchen, includes six translations of novels originally written in a language other than German.

Diversity high on the agenda

This year, publishers submitted nearly 140 titles translated from 23 languages. Since February, a seven-member jury has been evaluating the entries before selecting those six titles that it considers worthy of an award. The spectrum is broad, ranging from the debut novel of young Zimbabwean-American author NoViolet Bulawayo to the highly developed intellectual novel by award-winning and internationally recognized Israeli author, Amos Oz.

Translator Mirjam Pressler and author Amos Oz, pictured here at the Leipzig Book Fair, Copyright: Leipziger Messe GmbH / Tom Schulze
Translator Mirjam Pressler and author Amos Oz, pictured here at the Leipzig Book Fair, are on the shortlistImage: Leipziger Messe GmbH/Tom Schulze

For her translation of "Judas" from Hebrew into German, Mirjam Pressler has already been awarded at the Leipzig Book Fair. And Bulawayo's "We Need New Names" already appeared on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize in 2013.

Fragmented worlds

Daša Drndić's documentary novel about the murder of Jews in South Eastern Europe reminds readers of aspects of the 20th century that have yet to be overcome. In "Sonnenschein" (Sunshine), the author combines fiction with fact, including never-before-published lists of the names of victims and quotes from archives published.

The novel, translated from Croatian into German by Brigitte Döbert and Blanka Stipetic, is ground-breaking in its approach. Gilbert Gatore, on the other hand, is trailblazing when it comes to the topic of his novel about the Rwandan genocide of 1994. "The Past Ahead" digs up painful, suppressed pieces of history to broach the issues of guilt and reconciliation.

Reinterpreted myths

Another internationally known author on the shortlist is Patrick Chamoiseau, whose major theme is Creole culture. His novel "L'empreinte à Crusoé" (Crusoe's footprint) is a new version of the Robinson myth. Beate Thill who, together with the author Dany Laferrière was awarded a prize last year for her translation of his work "The Enigma of the Return," also adapted Chamoiseau's philosophical tale from French into German.

Krisztina Tóth's unsentimental childhood story set in postwar Hungary directs readers' attention back to Europe. For her description of life in the emblematic "Aquarium," in poverty and social marginalization, translator György Buda has chosen a German with a charming Austrian touch.

Book cover for NoViolet Bulawayo's
NoViolet Bulawayo's novel is the coming-of-age story of a girl from ZimbabweImage: Vintage

The path to the award ceremony

In this seventh year of the International Literature Prize, the geographical focus is narrow. Titles from Asia and South America are conspicuously lacking. The African continent, however, is well represented. One author-translator duo will win the award, which will be announced on June 29 and includes prize money of 25,000 and 10,000 euros, respectively.

On July 8, all nominated authors, translators and jury members will come together for the award ceremony in Berlin. Together with the public, they will celebrate a multilingual literature festival at the House of World Cultures.

Internationaler Literaturpreis Jurysitzung 27.05.2015 EINSCHRÄNKUNG
The Jury selected six titles from 140 entriesImage: HKW/Santiago Engelhardt

Sabine Peschel is a member of the International Literature Prize jury.

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