In Frankfurt: Antje Rávik Strubel Wins the 2021 German Book Prize

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Calling Antje Rávik Strubel’s book literature ‘that opposes injustice and violence,’ the German Book Prize 2021 jury gives the nod to ‘Blaue Frau’ from S. Fischer Verlage.

At the winner’s ceremony of the Germany Book Prize in the Kaisersaal of the Frankfurt Römer, October 18. Image: Börsenvereins des Deutschen Buchhandels, Vntr Media

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Jury: ‘Existential Force’
This evening (October 18) here in Frankfurt, the German Book Prize has announced that author Antje Rávik Strubel has won the prestigious €25,000 (US$29,029) honor for Blaue Frau (Blue Woman, S. Fischer Verlage, August 2021).

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall from our report on the shortlist in mid-September, the announcement ceremony was held tonight in the Kaisersaal of the Frankfurt Römer. By tradition, this event takes place shortly before the opening of Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 20 to 24).

The radio stations Deutschlandfunk and Deutschlandfunk Kultur broadcast the ceremony live via the special Dokumente und Debatten channel on digital radio.

Those who watch for competition among publishers will want to note that Carl Hanser Verlag published three of the six shortlisted titles, and yet S. Fischer, a Holtzbrinck company, was the one to field the winner, the other two in competition being Suhrkamp and Kiepenheuer & Witsch.

In our interview with S. Fisher’s president and publisher Siv Bublitz, she speaks of the company’s reduction in its title output and a focus on its authors and generating the visibility they need for their books.

The five finalists, Strubel’s colleague on the shortlist, each receive €2,500 (US$2902). And we’ll reiterate the shortlist for you below.

Jurors’ Rationale: A ‘Story of Female Empowerment’

Antje Rávik Strubel. Image: Börsenvereins des Deutschen Buchhandels, Vntr Media

In its statement of rationale, the German Book Prize jury for this year, led by Knut Cordsen, says, “With existential force and poetic precision, Antje Rávik Strubel describes the escape of a young woman from her memories of a rape.

“Layer by layer, the disturbing novel exposes what happened.

“The story of female self-empowerment expands into a reflection on rival cultures of remembrance in Eastern and Western Europe and power gaps between the sexes.

“In a tentative narrative movement, Antje Rávik Strubel succeeds in bringing up what is actually inexpressible in a traumatic experience.

“In a dialogue with the mythical figure of the Blue Woman, the narrator condenses her intervening poetics: literature as a fragile countervailing power that opposes injustice and violence in spite of all despair.”

“Literature as a fragile countervailing power that opposes injustice and violence in spite of all despair.”Knut Cordsen, German Book Prize jury

And speaking for the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, Karin Schmidt-Friderichs is quoted, saying, “The German Book Prize draws attention to current German-language literature, even in challenging times.

“The good news is that people are reading more books again, and the need for new perspectives and stories has grown in the pandemic.

“The German Book Prize has provided the novels of the year with a stage through a variety of channels and promoted conversation about the questions they are negotiating. The award ceremony today will keep the conversation going.

“I’d like to thank the independent jury, the sponsors and partners, without whom the award would not be possible, as well as the participating publishers and authors.”

The 2021 German Book Prize Shortlist

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs applauds Antje Rávik Strubel at the 2021 German Book Prize winner’s ceremony. Image: Börsenvereins des Deutschen Buchhandels, Vntr Media

Reminding you here of the full shortlist for this year:

  • Norbert Gstrein: Der zweite Jakob (Carl Hanser, February 2021)
  • Monika Helfer: Vati (Carl Hanser, January 2021)
  • Christian Kracht: Eurotrash (Kiepenheuer & Witsch, March 2021)
  • Thomas Kunst: Zandschower Klinken (Suhrkamp, February 2021)
  • Mithu SanyalIdentitti (Carl Hanser, February 2021)
  • Antje Rávik Strubel: Blaue Frau (S. Fischer, August 2021)

Accompanying Bayerischer Rundfunk’s Cordsen on this year’s jury were:

  • Bettina Fischer, director of the Literaturhaus Cologne
  • Anja Johannsen, director of Literarisches Zentrum Göttingen
  • Richard Kämmerlings, literary correspondent, Die Welt
  • Sandra Kegel, head of the literature and arts section at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
  • Beate Scherzer, a bookseller with Proust Wörter + Töne
  • Anne-Catherine Simon, editor of the literature and arts section of Die Presse

Funding comes from the Deutsche Bank Foundation, and additional partners include the federal government commissioner for culture and the media as well as the City of Frankfurt am Main.  The television network Deutsche Welle supports the German Book Prize in its media activities, domestically and internationally.

On social media, the prize is hashtagged #dbp21

The 2021 shortlisted authors of the German Book Prize at the winner’s ceremony on October 18 in Frankfurt. From left, they are Monika Helfer, Norbert Gstrein, Thomas Kunst, Christian Kracht, Antje Rávik Strubel, Mithu Sanyal. Image: Börsenvereins des Deutschen Buchhandels, Vntr Media

More from Publishing Perspectives on the German Book Prize is here, and on publishing and book awards in general is here. More on the German book market is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.