Swiss writer Lukas Bärfuss wins prestigious Georg Büchner Prize | Books | DW | 04.11.2019
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Swiss writer Lukas Bärfuss wins prestigious Georg Büchner Prize

German's most esteemed literary prize has been awarded to the prodigious Swiss author, playright and essayist, who was praised for examining the "fundamental existential condition of modern life."

The Georg Büchner Prize in 2019 was awarded to Swiss writer and playwright Lukas Bärfuss during a ceremony on November 2 in Darmstadt.

The prize, given by the German Academy of Language and Literature to a German-language author "who has made a significant contribution to contemporary German cultural life," is worth €50,000 ($56,000) and is considered the most important literary award in Germany.

Exploring the modern condition

"With Lukas Bärfuss, the German Academy of Language and Literature honors an outstanding narrator and playwright of contemporary German-language literature," stated the jury in its reasoning for the selection of the 47-year-old Swiss writer.

"With great stylistic assurance and a wealth of formal variations, his dramas and novels always find new and different ways to explore the fundamental existential condition of modern life," the jury statement continued.

Those are qualities that also characterize Bärfuss' essays, in which he fearlessly scrutinizes today's world while offering a curious and appreciative perspective.

Among the award-winning writer's best-known works are the novels One Hundred Days (2012), about the genocide in Rwanda; Koala (2014), the harrowing story of his brother's suicide; and the stage plays The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents (2003) and Oil (2009), about the global dependence on fossil fuel that premiered at the Deutsches Theater Berlin.

An illustrious legacy

The namesake for the Georg Büchner Prize is the dramatist and revolutionary who was born in the German state of Hesse, and whose most famous work, Woyzeck, was still unfinished when he died aged 23 in Zurich in 1837. 

The first prize in Georg Büchner's honor was awarded in 1923, but has been bestowed by the Academy to an author writing in German every year since 1951. Former winners include German-language literary greats such as Erich Kästner(1957), Günter Grass (1965) and Thomas Bernhard (1979), while more recent recipients include Sibylle Lewitscharoff (2013), Jan Wagner (2017) and, last year, the writer Terézia Mora.

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sb/als (with dpa)

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