German Wins International Booker Prize for First Time

Prize goes to Jenny Erpenbeck's 'Kairos'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 22, 2024 2:00 AM CDT
International Booker Prize Goes to 'Tale of Tangled Love Affair'
Jenny Erpenbeck, author of 'Kairos', speaks after winning the International Booker Prize, in London, Tuesday, May 21, 2024.   (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

German author Jenny Erpenbeck and translator Michael Hofmann won the International Booker Prize for fiction Tuesday for Kairos, the story of a tangled love affair during the final years of East Germany's existence, the AP reports. Erpenbeck said she hoped the book would help readers learn there was more to life in the now-vanished Communist country than depicted in The Lives of Others, the Academy Award-winning 2006 film about pervasive state surveillance in the 1980s. "The only thing that everybody knows is that they had a wall, they were terrorizing everyone with the Stasi, and that's it," she said. "That is not all there is." Erpenbeck, 57, is the first German winner of the International Booker Prize, and Hofmann is the first male translator to win since the prize launched in its current form in 2016.

The book beat five other finalists, chosen from 149 submitted novels, for the prize, which recognizes fiction from around the world that has been translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. The annual contest runs alongside the Booker Prize for English-language fiction, which will be handed out in the fall. The 50,000 pounds ($64,000) in prize money for the international award is divided between author and translator. Canadian broadcaster Eleanor Wachtel, who chaired the five-member judging panel, said Erpenbeck's novel about the relationship between a student and an older writer is "a richly textured evocation of a tormented love affair, the entanglement of personal and national transformations."

(More Booker Prize stories.)

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