Germany’s Jenny Erpenbeck wins International Booker Prize

German author Jenny Erpenbeck and translator Michael Hofmann on Tuesday won the International Booker Prize for fiction for the book “Kairos.”

The book was chosen from 149 submissions for the UK-based award. The £50,000 ($64,000, €59,000) in prize money will be divided between the translator and the author.

Last year’s winner was “Time Shelter” by Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov and translated by Angela Rodel.

The Booker Prize for English-language fiction will be handed out in the fall.

What did the award panel say about Erpenbeck’s ‘Kairos’?

“Kairos” follows the story of a young woman’s “destructive affair” with an older man in East Berlin in the 1980s.

Canadian broadcaster Eleanor Wachtel, who chaired the five-member panel that chose the winner, called the novel “a richly textured evocation of a tormented love affair, the entanglement of personal and national transformations.”

“Like [former East Germany], (the book) starts with optimism and trust, then unravels so badly,” she said.

“The self-absorption of the lovers, their descent into a destructive vortex, remains connected to the larger history of East Germany during this period, often meeting history at odd angles.”

Wachtel said that Hofmann’s translation maintained the “eloquence and eccentricities” of Erpenbeck’s writing.

More to East Germany than the Stasi

Erpenbeck said she hoped the book would bring to readers aspects of former East Germany other than pervasive state surveillance and repression.

“The only thing that everybody knows is that they had a wall, they were terrorizing everyone with the Stasi, and that’s it,” she said.

“That is not all there is.”

The Stasi was the state security authority of communist former East Germany, known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

“What interested me is that breaking free is not the only thing that can be told in such a story,” she said, referring to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

“There are years before and years after,” she stressed.

Erpenbeck was born and raised in East Berlin, which was part of East Germany until German reunification in 1990.

sdi/jsi (AP, AFP)

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