In Hamburg: Ewald Frie Wins the 2023 German Nonfiction Prize

In News by Porter Anderson

The German Nonfiction Prize’s jury praises Ewald Frie’s picture of urban-rural tension as ‘inspiring innovative historiography.’

Author Ewald Frie speaks in Hamburg , June 1, on being named winner of the 2023 German Nonfiction Prize for ‘Ein Hof und elf Geschwister’ (One Farm and Eleven Siblings). Image: Börsenvereins des Deutschen Buchhandels

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

‘Always Empathetic but Never Nostalgic’
In Hamburg tonight (June 1), the author Ewald Frie has been named the winner of the highly influential German Nonfiction Prize for his book Ein Hof und elf Geschwister: Der stille Abschied vom bäuerlichen Leben in Deutschland (One Farm and 11 Siblings: The Quiet Farewell to Rural Life in Germany), published in February by C.H. Beck.

As our readers know, the prize is worth a total €42,500 (US$45,721). The winner receives €25,000 (US$26,895), and the seven runners-up €2,500 each (US$2,689).

What this award’s jury expressly has searched for in 231 titles submitted by 128 publishers is “a German-language nonfiction book that inspires social debate,” and the jurors have this evening articulated their rationale for their choice of Frie’s book, saying, “The ‘quiet farewell to rural life’ happens everywhere.

“Ewald Frie takes a personal and surprising perspective on this process of change: using his family from the Münsterland as an example, he describes the tensions that have developed between town and country and are currently occupying us intensively.

“In his amazingly simple and at the same time poetic language, Frie creates access to a changing world—always empathetic, but never nostalgic. Based on interviews with his siblings, Frie has written a profound yet accessible and entertaining historical nonfiction book. This everyday story starts from easily overlooked details and develops big ideas; an inspiring example of innovative historiography.”

‘Our Self-Commitment as a Book Industry’

Börsenverein chief Karin Schmidt-Friderichs presents the 2023 German Nonfiction Prize at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie. Image: Börsenvereins des Deutschen Buchhandels

The event this evening has been noted for this still-young prize’s first award ceremony set in Hamburg, stylishly staged in the Small Hall of the Elbphilharmonie, a move that reflects the program’s new partnership with the city and provides a venue of extraordinary concert-hall quality. The €866 million complex originally designed by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron opened in January 2017.

In presenting the award to Frie, Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, head of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, said, “The German Nonfiction Prize has established itself as an important platform for nonfiction and contemporary issues.

“The titles nominated by the jury are a panopticon of currently relevant questions. They show me where my world view and my knowledge need to be strengthened.

“This is where our self-commitment as a book industry becomes clear: We want to offer diverse and high-quality content and arouse curiosity and interest so that people are happy to share it.”

Jurors for this year’s prize cycle are:

  • Julika Griem (Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities [KWI] Essen)
  • Stefan Koldehoff (Deutschlandfunk)
  • Michael Lemling (Buchhandlung Lehmkuhl bookshop)
  • Markus Rex (Alfred Wegener Institute)
  • Jury chair Jeanne Rubner (Technical University of Munich)
  • Adam Soboczynski (Die ZEIT)
  • Mirjam Zadoff (Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism)

The Book Culture and Reading Promotion Foundation of the Börsenverein is the driving body behind this award. It’s given to a work that’s expressly considered by the jury to “provide impetus for social debate.”

The main sponsor of the award is the Deutsche Bank Foundation, and it also has support from the City of Hamburg, the ZEIT Foundation Ebelin, and Gerd Bucerius. The award’s patron is Claudia Roth, minister of state for culture.

The German Nonfiction Prize 2023 Shortlist

In the Small Hall at the Small Hall of Hamburg’s harbor-side Elbphilharmonie, the German Nonfiction Prize 2023 audience listens to Ewald Frie. Image: Börsenvereins des Deutschen Buchhandels

As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, author Stephan Malinowski was named the winner of the 2022 German Nonfiction Prize for his book Die Hohenzollern und die Nazis: Geschichte einer Kollaboration (The Hohenzollerns and the Nazis: History of a Collaboration), published by Ullstein Buchverlage.

The program provided a live stream of the event tonight, which you can review here:

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