“The world is big and salvation is lurking everywhere” is the name of the debut novel by the author Ilija Trojanow, who did not earn a book award, simply because in 1996, when this novel was published, it did not receive a prize at the Leipzig Book Fair (whose second title winner was Trojanow then with his “Collector of Worlds”) gave a German book prize.
The title fits perfectly with the annual announcement of the twenty novel longlist for the German Book Prize, because the world of German-language literature is big, if not gigantic. And where, if not in literature, could salvation from the many injustices of our time lie?
So this year’s jury is once again celebrating the diversity of its selection, the diversity of the fabrics, whether it’s about origin, identity or the perspectives of a friendly coexistence. The big questions of our time, according to jury chair Miriam Zeh, “they can unfold in the German or Austrian provinces just as much as in Kabul or Pyongyang, in an approaching dystopia or in the real-historical East Berlin pre-reunification period”.
So there is a lot going on on the list, especially books from smaller publishers are on the longlist, as is the case every year. Carl-Christian Etze’s novel “Freudenberg” about the dazzling world of thoughts of a teenager from Edition Azur is nominated, as is Slata Roschal’s “153 Forms of Nothingness”, published by Homunculus Verlag. Or Gabriele Riedle’s novel “In Jungles. In deserts. At War” about the work of a reporter and photographer in Afghanistan, Libya, Liberia and the jungles of Papua New Guinea, to be published in The Other Library.
The Austrian publishing house Jung und Jung is also back with a title, Dagmar Leupold’s “Against the Elephants” – although, although it still belongs to the smaller publishers, Jung und Jung is almost the subscription winner of the German Book Prize, with Melinda Nadj Abonji’s “Tauben flew up ‘ 2010 and Ursula Krechel’s ‘Regional Court’ 2012.
Otherwise, the relevant Hansers, Suhrkamps, Rowohlts and Fischers are on the long list with their titles, of course Luchterhand, C.H. Beck, KiWi or DuMont.
And this is where the favorites cavort, shall we say: Esther Kinsky with her earthquake novel “Rombo”, Fatma Aydemir with her moving and irritating family novel “Dschinns”, Daniela Dröscher with her autofictional, in Annie Ernaux and Édouard Louis traditional book “Lügen über meine Mutter”, Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker’s grandiose country novel “Wilderer” or Eckhart Nickel with his wonderful “Spitzweg” novel (oh yes, by the way, it was published by Piper).
After the favorites, there is another same old story at this point, or better: same old question. novel of the year? Hardly any of the favorites can claim that for themselves, for all their goodness, that was neither Antje Rávik Strubel’s “Blaue Frau” last year nor Anne Weber’s “Annette, ein Heldeninnenepos” the year before.
In this respect, “Next Door” by Kristine Bilkau, “Kangal” by Anna Yeliz Schentke, Jan Factor’s “Trottel” or Anna Kim’s “History of a Child” should also be examined benevolently, as should Yael Inokai’s “Ein simpler Intervention”, Jochen Schmidt’s new novel ” Phlox”, Marie Gamillscheg’s “Rebellion of the Sea Creatures”, Kim de l’Horizons “Blood Book” or Theresia Enzensberger’s “At Sea”.
Forgot someone? no Yes, stop! Andreas Stichmann with “A Love in Pyongyang” (North Korea, wasn’t Christian Kracht there too?) and Heinz Strunk with “A Summer in Niendorf” (that would be something like a winning title, very deep and down in Germany).
The shortlist will be announced on September 22nd, the award will be presented on October 17th at the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, in the Römer. And then, faster than expected, the world of German-language literature is very small again.