Author Reinhard Jirgl wins Georg Buechner Prize

Mon Oct 25, 2010 2:17pm EDT
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BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - German author Reinhard Jirgl won Germany's most coveted literary award, the Georg Buechner Prize, for his life's work this weekend, the German Academy for Language and Literature said in a statement.

The 57-year-old author is most famous for his novels "Die Unvollendeten" ("The Unfinished") about a German family expelled from its home in 1945, and "Die Stille" ("Calm"), which accompanies two German families through the 20th century as they experience war, inflation and expulsion.

In these works, Jirgl brings Germany's "historical upheavals alive using different everyday perspectives which also make forgotten and buried voices audible again," the academy's jury said in a statement.

The jury praised the "epic breadth" of the novelist's work and his "haunting, often disturbingly suggestive panorama of twentieth century German history."

Jirgl was brought up in the former East Germany, where he worked as an engineer before taking up a job as a lighting technician at a theater in East Berlin so that he could devote more time to writing.

He completed six manuscripts before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 but failed to get any of them published because the regime deemed his interpretation of history to be "non-Marxist."

Jirgl began publishing some of these works, which include "Mutter Vater Roman" ("Mother Father Novel"), when Germany reunified in 1990.

It was not until 1993 that he had his literary breakthrough, when the manuscript of "Abschied von den Feinden" ("Goodbye to the Enemies") won him the Alfred Doeblin literature prize. In 1996 he gave up his job as lighting technician to become a full-time author.

The Georg Buechner Prize, which is worth 40,000 euros ($56,150), has been awarded since 1923 and is named after the 19th century dramatist who wrote "Woyzeck," one of the most performed German plays.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin, editing by Paul Casciato)