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German Author Jenny Erpenbeck Wins International Booker Prize

German author Jenny Erpenbeck has won the International Booker Prize for Fiction for her book Kairos. The book depicts a turbulent love story in the final years of communist East Germany. Translator Michael Hofmann has also been honored. Kairos follows the story of a young woman's destructive affair with an older man in East Berlin in the […]

German author Jenny Erpenbeck has won the International Booker Prize for Fiction for her book Kairos. The book depicts a turbulent love story in the final years of communist East Germany. Translator Michael Hofmann has also been honored.

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

Award Panel’s comments on the book

Canadian broadcaster Eleanor Wachtel, who led the five-member panel selecting the winner, described the novel as “A richly textured evocation of a tormented love affair, the entanglement of personal and national transformations.” She mentioned that similar to former East Germany, the book begins with a sense of hope and confidence but gradually falls apart.

“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.

Erpenbeck expressed her desire for her book to illuminate aspects of former East Germany beyond the commonly known themes of state surveillance and repression. She stated, “The common perception revolves around the wall and the oppressive Stasi regime, but there's more to it than that.” 

“What intrigued me was exploring narratives beyond liberation, encompassing the pre- and post-wall eras,” she noted, referencing the events surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

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.

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German AuthorInternational Booker PrizeJenny ErpenbeckTDGThe Daily Gaurdian