By Hannah Johnson | @hannahsjohnsonThis year’s German Book Prize, one of the highest recognitions of German-language fiction, goes to Bosnian-German writer Saša Stanišić for his novel, Herkunft (Origins), published by Luchterhand / Random House Germany in March 2019.
In announcing the winner on Monday evening, October 14, the German Book Prize jury said about the book and Stanišić, “With great humour, he counters the narratives of historical misrepresentation with his own stories. ‘Herkunft’ (‘Origins’) is a portrait of a present that constantly re-tells itself anew – with the result that a ‘Self-Portrait with Ancestors’ becomes a novel about a Europe of life journeys.”
The publisher describes Herkunft with a quote from Stanišić himself: “Origins is a book about the places that are my home, the ones in my memory and the ones I have invented. It is a book about language, moonlighting, youth and many summers. The summer when my grandfather trod on my grandmother’s foot while dancing in such a way that I was almost never born. The summer when I nearly drowned. The summer when Angela Merkel opened the borders and which was very like the summer when I fled across many borders to Germany.”
This is the second time Stanišić has received attention from the German Book Prize. His debut novel, Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert (How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone) was shortlisted for the 2006 prize. This semi-autobiographical novel of the Bosnian war became a bestseller in Germany, won the Leipzig Book Fair Prize, and has been translated into 31 languages.
According to the Random House Germany site, foreign rights to Herkunft had already been sold to China (Horizon), Croatia (Fraktura), France (Stock), Italy (Keller), and Korea (EunHaeng NaMu) before the prize-winning announcement was made.
This year, the German Book Prize jury reviewed 203 submissions before narrowing the field to the six-title shortlist in mid-September and announcing a winner on October 14.
The German Book Prize, with funding from the Deutsche Bank Stiftung, is awarded annually by the Stiftung Buchkultur and Leseförderung des Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels and in partnership with the Frankfurter Buchmesse and the city of Frankfurt am Main.
The winner receives a purse of 25,000 euros and each of the five finalists receive 2,500 euros.