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A person reading a book, Copyright; picture-alliance/dpa/P. Endig
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Endig

Refugee tales for German Book Prize

September 16, 2015

Six novels have been shortlisted for Germany's most prestigious literary accolade, the German Book Prize. Fitting the zeitgeist, refugees and flight are common themes.


The six titles on the shortlist for the German Book Prize are an "illuminating mirror" of society, jury spokeswoman Claudia Kramatschek said on Wednesday (16.09.2015) as the decision was announced.

The novels include tales of intercontinental refugees or deal with current issues, ideological fights, gender relations and power struggles, explained Kramatschek.

A longlist of 20 titles - all published between October 2014 and September 2015 in German - was published in August. The winner will be chosen from among the six finalists and announced on October 12 at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Here are the six nominees:

  • Jenny Erpenbeck: "Gehen, ging, gegangen"
  • Rolf Lappert: "Über den Winter"
  • Inger-Maria Mahlke: "Wie ihr wollt"
  • Ulrich Peltzer: "Das bessere Leben"
  • Monique Schwitter: "Eins im Andern"
  • Frank Witzel: "Die Erfindung der Roten Armee Fraktion durch einen manisch-depressiven Teenager im Sommer 1969"

Erpenbeck and Peltzer's highly political contributions were expected to make the cut. "Gehen, ging, gegangen" (Going, went, gone) deals with African refugees in Berlin and the trial of waiting caused by an insecure resident status.

Jenny Erpenbeck, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Frey
Erpenbeck's novel focuses on refugees who are confronted with waitingImage: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Frey

Meanwhile, "Das bessere Leben" (The better life) is a thriller that traces three top managers as they deal with life's key questions in a globalized society.

Since the six finalists were published within the past year, they are not yet available in English. However, winning the German Book Prize not only leads to award money totalling 25,000 euros (about $28,000), but often to a spot on the bestseller list and translation contracts.

Last year's winner was Lutz Seiler with his novel, "Kruso," featuring a protagonist that is marooned on an island in former East Germany.

kbm/eg (dpa, deutscher-buchpreis.de)

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