Lutz Seiler Wins 2014 German Book Prize

In Global Trade Talk by Hannah Johnson

By Hannah Johnson

Lutz-Seiler-Kruso-Suhrkamp-BerlinThe German Bookseller and Publishers Association announced on Monday night the 2014 winner of the German Book Prize: Lutz Seiler for his debut novel, Kruso (published by Suhrkamp). Seiler will receive 25,000 euros, and the other five short-listed authors will receive 2,500 euros each.

Kruso is the first novel for Seiler, 51 years old, who has received several awards for his poetry, including the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, the Bremen Literature Prize and the Fontane Prize. The remaining five authors short-listed for the prize were Thomas Hettche (Pfaueninsel, Kiepenheuer & Witsch), Angelika Klüssendorf (April, Kiepenheuer & Witsch), Gertrud Leutenegger (Panischer Frühling, Suhrkamp), Thomas Melle (3000 Euro, Rowohlt.Berlin), and Heinrich Steinfest (Der Allesforscher, Piper).

If their decision to award Seiler with this year’s prize, the jury said: “Lutz Seiler employs lyrical, sensual language with a hint of magic to describe the summer of 1989 on the island of Hiddensee—a ‘gateway to evanescence.’ The island was a gathering place for eccentrics, mavericks, freedom seekers, individuals looking to flee the GDR. One can read this compelling Robinsonade involving the eponymous Kruso and the young dishwasher Edgar as an eloquent tale of both a personal and historic shipwreck—and as a poet’s coming of age novel. The text develops its own unique sense of urgency and, if nothing else, serves as a requiem for the refugees who lost their lives while attempting to escape across the Baltic Sea. Lutz Seiler’s first novel impresses with its thoroughly distinct poetic language, its sensual intensity and its worldliness.”

Jury members for the German Book Prize 2014 include: Jens Bisky (Süddeutsche Zeitung), Katrin Hillgruber (independent critic), Frithjof Klepp (Buchhandlung ocelot, Berlin), Susanne Link (Buchhandlung Stephanus, Trier), Manfred Papst (NZZ am Sonntag), Wiebke Porombka (independent critic) and Annemarie Stoltenberg (NDR Kultur).

“Writing and reading are intimate endeavours, and authors are not known for seeking out the spotlight in the same way that actors do. When we award a prize of this nature, we begin to take this into consideration,” said Heinrich Riethmüller, head of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, at the award ceremony. “The novel selection process is a way of staging literature, but this is the only way to generate the kind of public attention that literature needs in order to make a big enough impression alongside film, music and major cultural events.”

For foreign rights inquiries, contact Dr. Petra Hardt, Suhrkamp Verlag: hardt@suhrkamp.de.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson

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Hannah Johnson is the Publisher of Publishing Perspectives. Before joining PP in 2009, she worked as Project Manager at the German Book Office New York.