Novelist Jenny Erpenbeck wins Thomas Mann Prize | Books | DW | 03.05.2016
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Novelist Jenny Erpenbeck wins Thomas Mann Prize

The novelist Jenny Erpenbeck was awarded the Thomas Mann Prize on Monday (2.5.2016) for her narratives capturing today's burning topics and considering historical and political topics in her writing.

Jenny Erpenbeck is one of Germany's top living writers today with numerous prizes already under her belt; on Monday (2.5.2016) she added the Thomas Mann Prize to that list.

With her latest novel "Gehen, ging, gegangen" ("Going, went, gone"), the Berlin-based author and theater director was considered a likely candidate for the 2015 German Book Prize. Her bestseller, not yet translated into English, explored the hopeless plight of refugees living in Germany - a book that touched a nerve as it fictionalized the contemporary dialogue. The Thomas Mann Prize recognizes that engagement.

Confronting Germany's burning questions

"Since her much-celebrated debut, 'The Old Child (Geschichte vom alten Kind),' in 1999, Jenny Erpenbeck has published numerous novels, stories, essays and dramas that confront the burning questions of our time and present the precarious political history of the 20th century," a spokesperson for the prize said from Lübeck on Monday.

The jury cited her use of reflective language, using a variety of perspectives - from victims to perpetrators to those who simply were present and went along with actions - to detail breakthrough and migratory periods, as one of the reasons for the recognition.

Great recognition for her work

The cover of the book Gehen, Ging, Gegangen by Jenny Erpenbeck Copyright: Knaus

Gehen, Ging, Gegangen is Erpenbeck's latest bestseller

The author grew up in the former East Berlin, where she took an apprenticeship to become a bookbinder. She went on to study theater and musical production; by the turn of the century, she had put on plays in a number of opera houses. At the same time, the novelist began writing in earnest. In the meantime, Jenny Erpenbeck has become one of Germany's best known living authors, is a member of the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung (German Academy for Language and Poetry) and has been recognized with some of Germany's top prizes, including the Joseph-Breitbach Award and the Walter-Hasenclever Prize.

The Thomas-Mann Prize, with its purse of 25,000 Euro ($32,000) will officially be handed over at a ceremony on September 17, 2016 in Lübeck. Previous winners include Juli Zeh, Lars Gustafsson and Christa Wolf.

cat/rb (dpa, epd)

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