Skip to main content
DBP2021

German Book Prize 2021 Longlist

About the Prize

The German Book Prize is presented to the best German-language novel just before the start of the Frankfurt Book Fair as an annual award from the Stiftung Buchkultur und Leseförderung des Börsenvereins des Deutschen Buchhandels – the Foundation for Book Culture and the Promotion of Reading of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association. The Prize is intended to draw attention beyond national borders to authors writing in German, to reading and to the keynote medium of the book. Publishing companies can apply for the award by direct nomination of their titles. Unusually, titles still in production when applications are first invited can also be included in the selection process. Furthermore, the German Book Prize represents the guarantee of independent and competent prize judgement: the seven jurors will personally assess all the books that are submitted and that meet the criteria for consideration.

To ensure the greatest possible independence and transparency for the choice of the award-winner, the Börsenverein board has appointed the German Book Prize Academy with representatives of the book and media industry. Their most important task is the selection every year of the jury members who will choose the winner over the course of several selection stages. Organised by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, the German Book Prize is also backed by partners from outside the industry. The main partner of the Book Prize is the Deutsche Bank Foundation. In addition the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media and the City of Frankfurt am Main support the prize.

Single title

Mitgift

Mitgift (Dowry)

August 1962, in provincial Lower Saxony. For years, Gerda Derking has been taking care of the village’s dead. Then one...

August 1962, in provincial Lower Saxony. For years, Gerda Derking has been taking care of the village’s dead. Then one day, Wilhelm Leeb is standing outside her door: the man who jilted her years earlier for Farmer Kruse’s daughter and her large dowry. Who went to war a staunch Nazi and only returned after years in a PoW camp. Now his face is filled with unbearable pain. Gerda realises that the Leebs need her help to face this tragedy.

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-608-98414-3
Author:
Henning Ahrens
Pages:
352
Price:
€ 22.00
Gentzen

Gentzen oder: Betrunken aufräumen (Gentzen or Cleaning Up Drunk)

The German logician Gerhard Gentzen was one of the most brilliant in his field. A novel that enquires into the...

The German logician Gerhard Gentzen was one of the most brilliant in his field. A novel that enquires into the basis of our life in the present: the seemingly infinite computing power of computers. It makes possible flight bookings, the distribution of vaccines and relief supplies, the control of nuclear arsenals and the detailed mappings of a life through likes and comments on social media that would not exist if programs could not check the functioning of programs. The fact that they can has to do with Gerhard Gentzen.

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-7518-0035-2
Author:
Dietmar Dath
Pages:
604
Price:
€ 26.00
Die Eroberung Amerikas

Die Eroberung Amerikas (The Conquest of America)

Franzobel’s latest title is an entertaining and highly ambitious novel devoted to a shameful, little-known episode in American history and...

Franzobel’s latest title is an entertaining and highly ambitious novel devoted to a shameful, little-known episode in American history and taking a witty, postmodern and playful approach reminiscent of Daniel Kehlmann.

The Conquest of America focuses on the voyages and expeditions of sixteenth-century Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto, who is here given the moniker of Ferdinand Desoto. Franzobel interweaves the main story with that of a modern-day class-action lawsuit on behalf of the displaced and dispossessed native Americans whose ancestors Desoto and others terrorised, raped and murdered during their bloody conquest of America.

This well-researched historical novel of epic proportions is full of vivid and evocative descriptions of sixteenth-century life. Franzobel is at his best when recreating the historical detail of life at sea: the varied cargo, the gruesome living conditions on board, the meagre, worm-infested food rations, and the shockingly primitive medical treatments administered by ship’s doctors. Episodes in Desoto’s childhood are skilfully relayed and gluttonous royal banquets are recreated in all their absurdity.

After spending a year in Cuba preparing for the expedition, Desoto’s 800-strong band at last leaves for Florida in search of gold. The expedition is a disaster, and the men get stuck in the swamps, eaten by alligators and stung by mosquitos. They end up killing, raping and burning their way through every village of native Americans they encounter, losing most of their own men and animals in the process, and eventually return to Cuba more or less empty-handed.

The novel is populated by many and varied characters – the leaders and soldiers of the conquering armies, the ship’s crew and passengers, the indigenous peoples – while an omniscient and sometimes whimsical narrator pulls the reader backwards and forwards across vast tracts of space and time. The past and present run parallel in the narrative, operating largely on separate levels, although there are occasions when the narrator relishes bringing the present into the past. Historical characters are variously described as ‘an early modern Brad Pitt’, or as a dead ringer for the modern-day British actor, Ben Kingsley, and we’re told that the rotting cadaver of Charles V wouldn’t have stood comparison with ‘a Leonardo di Caprio’. These modern-day references serve to jolt us out of the suspension of disbelief and remind us that our past and present are organically joined, a theme that recurs throughout the narrative.

Franzobel’s epic novel is an enthralling take on A

Publisher:
ISBN:
978-3-552-07227-5
Author:
Franzobel
Pages:
544
Price:
€ 26.00
Der versperrte Weg

Der versperrte Weg (The Obstructed Path)

Although connected by a common fate of peril, escape and displacement, Georges-Arthur has spent his life in between languages and...

Although connected by a common fate of peril, escape and displacement, Georges-Arthur has spent his life in between languages and using words, while his brother Erich joined the Résistance and fought for the liberation of Paris. Georges-Arthur kept memories of his brother’s life buried for decades, until a birthday letter finally brought them to the surface. A moving literary document compassionately retelling the story of a life obstructed.

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-8353-5061-7
Author:
Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt
Pages:
111
Price:
€ 20.00
Drei Kameradinnen

Drei Kameradinnen (Sisters in Arms)

This timely novel follows the deep and unwavering bond between three women as they confront systemic racism, white and male...

This timely novel follows the deep and unwavering bond between three women as they confront systemic racism, white and male privilege, and the resurgence of the far-right in Germany. Shida Bazyar is a talented author whose writing will appeal to fans of Elena Ferrante, Zadie Smith and Kamila Shamsie.

Sisters in Arms opens with a tabloid-style newspaper article accusing a young, allegedly radicalised Muslim woman, Saya M., of starting a fire in a building which left many dead. The novel’s narrator, Kasih, then explains what really happened. Kasih and her two best friends, Saya and Hani, have known each other since childhood, growing up together on a housing estate. Now young adults, they are trying to navigate a world that seems to be stacked against them. Saya is always angry and is particularly incensed by the rise of the far-right in Germany. Hani has a steady job as a secretary but is overworked and underpaid. Kasih, meanwhile, has just emerged from a difficult break-up and is struggling to find a rewarding job.

Although they now live in different places, the trio’s shared sense of sisterhood remains strong and is an anchor in their turbulent lives. Despite their outward stoicism the friends are increasingly affected by the discrimination and barrage of racist micro-aggressions they face in their daily lives. Saya channels her distress at these experiences into an obsession with neo-Nazi groups, watching documentaries about them and closely following a trial exposing one particular far-right group. Kasih worries about Saya’s erratic and obsessive behaviour. Retelling the story, she tries to track Saya’s actions leading up to the fateful night of the fire, looking for clues that might explain what happened.

The devastating fire breaks out in a block of flats, killing many people, including numerous immigrants. We are at first led to believe that Saya is blamed for the fire and is imprisoned. However, in an unexpected twist, Kasih reveals that she has made up a lot of the story, to demonstrate how society reacts to people from ethnic minority backgrounds when they commit crimes, compared with the crimes committed by the racist far-right. Saya is not actually guilty of any crime, she is simply someone who stands up for what she believes in. The story ends with the news that the trial of the neo-Nazi group has just begun but leaves open the question of whether justice will be served.

Sisters in Arms is an immersive and thought-provoking read with a strong plot and relatable characters, and which explores urgent contemporary questions around racism and sexism in society.

Publisher:
ISBN:
978-3-462-05276-3
Author:
Shida Bazyar
Pages:
352
Price:
€ 22.00
Der zweite Jakob

Der zweite Jakob (The Second Jacob)

Norbert Gstrein’s latest novel focuses on a father-daughter relationship. Its impeccable characterisation, international scope and topical themes should appeal to...

Norbert Gstrein’s latest novel focuses on a father-daughter relationship. Its impeccable characterisation, international scope and topical themes should appeal to a broad English-language readership.

Jakob is a thrice-divorced actor who is now working in the theatre in Innsbruck after a career in film. Jakob is anything but a stereotypical actor figure, coming from a rural Austrian background and enjoying financial independence due to inherited wealth that he has concealed from the fiscal authorities. His less than progressive views also set him apart from most of his colleagues. Jakob is our protagonist’s stage name, borrowed from an uncle whom he takes after, prompting his family nickname, ‘the second Jacob’.

One day Jakob is asked by his twenty-year-old daughter Luzie if there is anything in his life that he regrets. He tells her how he was once a passenger in a car that hit and killed a young woman. The incident happened while he was working on a film set on the USA–Mexican frontier, and rather than seeking assistance, the two actors left the scene hurriedly. This unsurprisingly affected Jakob, who was already experiencing pangs of conscience after having visited a night club over the Mexican border, where he received oral sex from an exploited teenage girl.

The confession has a devastating effect on the already disturbed Luzie, who ends up self-harming and being taken to hospital. Jakob vents his anger on her Bosnian boyfriend, who was aware of her fragile state. Jakob is also angry with his biographer, whose work has been commissioned to coincide with his sixtieth birthday. Jakob has never liked the biographer, feeling that he has gone behind his back, particularly in meetings with the vulnerable Luzie. When the biographer appears at a rehearsal, Jakob physically attacks him, an action that forces him to abandon his career at the theatre.

Despite this incident and his strained relationship with his native Tyrolean village, whose inhabitants he has labelled fascists, Jakob’s birthday is to be celebrated there. After an eventful ceremony unveiling a statue in his honour, he revisits significant childhood locations in the village. The novel ends with a description of a fit of dizziness as Jakob contemplates re-enacting a daredevil stunt from his youth.

The Second Jacob is distinguished by Gstrein’s masterful command of language and his sophisticated literary style, evoking Thomas Mann in his precision and eye for detail. Jakob is a complex and contradictory character whose unconventional life and difficult relationships make for compelling reading.

Publisher:
ISBN:
978-3-446-26916-3
Author:
Norbert Gstrein
Pages:
448
Price:
€ 25.00
Vater und ich

Vater und ich (Father and I)

Ipek is a journalist well versed in asking questions, but she is powerless against the silence between her and her...

Ipek is a journalist well versed in asking questions, but she is powerless against the silence between her and her father. They used to be close when she was younger, but then drifted a little further apart with each year that passed, losing their shared language in the process. Dilek Güngör tells the story of a daughter reconnecting with her father, who migrated to Germany from Turkey in the seventies as a ‘guest worker’. A moving and humorous novel about a father–daughter relationship.

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-95732-492-0
Author:
Dilek Güngör
Pages:
112
Price:
€ 19.00
Vati

Vati (Daddy)

He had a prosthetic leg, was often absent, was a widower and a pensioner, and loved literature. Monika Helfer’s book...

He had a prosthetic leg, was often absent, was a widower and a pensioner, and loved literature. Monika Helfer’s book orbits her father’s life and tells the story of her childhood and adolescence – the abundant space and the library at the convalescence home for war victims in the mountains, and the poverty and the cramped conditions in a South Tyrolean housing estate with many children in one kitchen. She writes about what she knows of her father, a man who, like many of his generation, didn’t say much.

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-446-26917-7
Author:
Monika Helfer
Pages:
176
Price:
€ 20.00
die Nibelungen

Die Nibelungen: Ein Deutscher Stummfilm (The Nibelungs)

It’s gripping material: a bath in blood, a beautiful woman, a hoard of gold and a murder that is avenged...

It’s gripping material: a bath in blood, a beautiful woman, a hoard of gold and a murder that is avenged in gruesome fashion. So goes the Song of the Nibelungs, the saga of the glorious Siegfried, his grim adversary Hagen and the beautiful Kriemhild. But is that the true story of these European heroes, which begins in Iceland or Norway, then continues along the River Rhine and down the Danube all the way to the Black Sea? Felicitas Hoppe believes nobody knows how it really happened, and so she makes up the truth.

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-10-032458-7
Author:
Felicitas Hoppe
Pages:
256
Price:
€ 22.00
Zu den Elefanten

Zu den Elefanten (To the Elephants)

When Theo, a scholar of culture, finds himself in a strange state of limbo and uncertainty, he resolves to make...

When Theo, a scholar of culture, finds himself in a strange state of limbo and uncertainty, he resolves to make some changes in his relationship with his family. Seemingly lost in his own head and despairing of the present, he embarks with his son on a journey along the route from the Mediterranean to Vienna that the later Emperor Maximilian II took centuries ago with the elephant Suleiman. During the journey, he comes to understand life as a series of attempts to explain and observe the world. And realises that before he can reconnect with other people, he first needs to lose himself.

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-7011-8187-X
Author:
Peter Karoshi
Pages:
208
Eurotrash

Eurotrash

It starts with a memory: twenty-five years ago in Faserland, an unnamed first-person narrator (was it Christian Kracht?) travelled through...

It starts with a memory: twenty-five years ago in Faserland, an unnamed first-person narrator (was it Christian Kracht?) travelled through a Germany that had taken leave of its senses, beginning in Sylt and finally heading over the Swiss border to Zurich. In Eurotrash, the same narrator takes another journey, this time delving not just into his own inner life but the murky depths of his family history, which is interwoven in tragic, comic and sometimes spectacular ways with that of Germany.

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-462-05083-4
Author:
Christian Kracht
Pages:
224
Price:
€ 22.00
Zandschower Klinken

Zandschower Klinken (Zandschow)

Bengt Claasen is sitting in his car, all his earthly possessions in the boot. In front of him, on the...

Bengt Claasen is sitting in his car, all his earthly possessions in the boot. In front of him, on the dashboard, sits the collar that belonged to his deceased dog. Wherever it falls down, he is going to stop and start a new life. Eventually, he reaches Zandschow – a tiny village in the far north, where the villagers follow a strict weekly plan. The people here way out in the sticks no longer put up with precarious conditions. Their Zandschow is Zanzibar, you can be a pauper here and still live like a king, amongst a lot of craziness.

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-518-42992-2
Author:
Thomas Kunst
Pages:
254
Price:
€ 22.00
Besichtigung eines Unglücks

Besichtigung eines Unglücks (Revisiting a Tragedy)

In December 1939 the biggest train accident ever witnessed on German soil occurs near Genthin station. Two trains collide at...

In December 1939 the biggest train accident ever witnessed on German soil occurs near Genthin station. Two trains collide at full speed, with many deaths and casualties. On board one of the trains is Carla, who survives with serious injuries. Carla is engaged to Richard, a Jew from the city of Neuss, yet her travelling companion is not Richard but the Italian Giuseppe Buonomo, who is killed in the crash. And after the accident it is Buonomo’s name that she takes.

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-89561-157-3
Author:
Gert Loschütz
Pages:
336
Price:
€ 24.00
Der Himmel vor hundert Jahren

Der Himmel vor Hundert Jahren (The Sky a Hundred Years Ago)

Yulia Marfutova’s keenly anticipated debut is set during the decline of the Russian Empire, in an isolated village whose inhabitants...

Yulia Marfutova’s keenly anticipated debut is set during the decline of the Russian Empire, in an isolated village whose inhabitants have yet to discover that the Tsar has been overthrown.

The Sky a Hundred Years Ago offers a charming and humorous take on the conflict between advancing modernity and rural superstition. The novel opens in 1918, shortly after the end of the Russian Revolution, as the Russian Civil War rages on. But in the remote, rural village it has been a long time since anyone heard news from the front. The opposition between new and old forms of knowledge is embodied by Ilya and Pyotr, two rivals for the position of village elder. While Ilya studies a strange technical object, a barometer known only as ‘the tube’, Pyotr listens to the nearby river and follows the myths surrounding it. Ilya’s wife, Inna Nikolayevna, despite her husband’s leanings, is as superstitious as Pyotr. And in accordance with Eastern European superstition, when she drops a knife, a stranger appears in the village.

Inna Nikolayevna welcomes the mysterious Wadik into her house, where he assists Ilya with his scientific experiments. The village inhabitants spread all sorts of rumours about the newly arrived young man, some thinking he is a high-ranking officer, others believing he is a deserter. But what is certain is that Wadik’s arrival heralds the arrival of new ideas and attitudes in the village. Ilya’s granddaughter, Anushka, is particularly interested in Wadik and his stories about the outside world. The otherwise mute Wadik talks to Anuschka, telling her about the books he has read. Anuschka also allows her imagination to fill in what he doesn’t tell her: stories about the war he seems to want to forget as quickly as possible. She shows him her hiding place in the forest and starts calling herself Anna, desperate to grow up as she finds herself falling in love with Wadik.

One day, Pyotr, mistrustful of Wadik, decides to ask the river spirits for help in keeping an eye on the stranger. Pyotr leaves and disappears without trace, and the villagers’ suspicions focus on Wadik. When two further newcomers appear from across the river – armed, authoritarian men with their own distinct ideas about how life in the village should be organised – the villagers are faced with fresh upheaval.

Yulia Marfutova is a striking new voice in contemporary German literature and her remarkable debut stays in the mind. The Sky a Hundred Years Ago combines magical realism, folk tales and surreal elements, offering a wry commentary on the twentieth century’s ideological struggles and their continuing relevance today.

Publisher:
ISBN:
978-3-498-00189-6
Author:
Yulia Marfutova
Pages:
192
Price:
€ 22.00
Im Menschen muss alles herrlich sein

Im Menschen muss alles herrlich sein (Glorious People)

‘What do they see when they peer through the curtains at the courtyard of an East German town with their...

‘What do they see when they peer through the curtains at the courtyard of an East German town with their Soviet eyes?’ Nina wonders when she thinks of her mother Tatjana and her friend Lena, who left Ukraine in the mid-nineties, got stranded in Jena and had to start all over again. Lena’s daughter Edi stopped wondering long ago; she doesn’t want anything to do with her family’s past. Until Lena’s fiftieth birthday party brings the four women together again and they come to realise that they all share a story.

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-518-43010-6
Author:
Sasha Marianna Salzmann
Pages:
384
Price:
€ 24.00
Identitti

Identitti (Identitti)

Mithu Sanyal’s timely fictional debut speaks to ongoing discussions around race, culture and identity. It will appeal to readers of...

Mithu Sanyal’s timely fictional debut speaks to ongoing discussions around race, culture and identity. It will appeal to readers of English-language authors such as Bernardine Evaristo, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Afua Hirsch, as well as anyone with an interest in the issues raised by the Rachel Dolezal case (where a former college professor and activist ‘identified’ as black despite being born to two white parents) and other similar cases that have since emerged.

Nivedita (aka Identitti) is a well-known blogger and doctoral student at the University of Düsseldorf who follows her supervisor, superstar Postcolonial and Race studies Professor Saraswati, and idolises her almost like a goddess. In her blog entries she mentions the Hindu Goddess, Kali, with whom she holds imaginary conversations throughout the novel. Kali personifies Nivi’s search for identity, and rather mirrors Saraswati’s influence in Nivi’s life. But a mere couple of hours after being interviewed on the radio about her blog and about Saraswati, Nivedita’s life and sense of self are turned upside down, when it emerges that Saraswati is actually white (and German).

Professor Saraswati turns out to have been assuming a false racial identity. Coming to terms with this shock, Nivedita must re-evaluate her own assumptions and beliefs. Her defence of Saraswati on the radio just hours before the scandal breaks comes back to bite her, and, as her online reputation as an activist, intellectual person of colour goes up in flames, she starts questioning everything. The main plotline unfolds in the days and weeks following the scandal. The narrative moves back and forth in Nivedita’s life, focusing on specific moments that made her doubt her identity and her place in the world, and reconsider the lessons she has learned from Saraswati, including those she has had to unlearn. Saraswati insists on her position and tries to pass off her lie as being ‘transracial’ or even racial drag, but the online activists do not accept her transgression.

Identitti showcases the powerful role of internet culture in the current political debates about race and identity, highlighting the continual battles being conducted online, particularly on social media. The narrative combines blog entries, twitter threads and regular text, which are differentiated by headings and different font styles, and is interspersed with informative asides on sexuality, queerness, belonging, and the current German and international multicultural context.

Publisher:
ISBN:
978-3-446-26921-7
Author:
Mithu M. Sanyal
Pages:
432
Price:
€ 22.00
Mein Lieblingstier heißt Winter

Mein Lieblingstier heißt Winter (My Favourite Animal Is Called Winter)

The Viennese frozen food supplier Franz Schlicht is given a macabre request. His client Dr Schauer has resolved to take...

The Viennese frozen food supplier Franz Schlicht is given a macabre request. His client Dr Schauer has resolved to take his life by lying down in a freezer. He tasks Franz with transporting his frozen body to a forest clearing. At the agreed time, however, the freezer is empty, and Franz embarks on a highly unusual search for the corpse.

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-10-397400-0
Author:
Ferdinand Schmalz
Pages:
192
Price:
€ 22.00
Blaue Frau

Blaue Frau (Blue Woman)

Adina grew up in the Czech part of the Giant Mountains, and already as a child longed to get away....

Adina grew up in the Czech part of the Giant Mountains, and already as a child longed to get away. In Berlin, she meets a photographer, who gets her an internship at an arts and leisure centre in the Uckermark. Rendered invisible by a sexual assault which no one takes seriously, Adina gets stranded in Helsinki after wandering around aimlessly. In the hotel, she meets an Estonian professor and MEP, who falls in love with her. While he campaigns for human rights, Adina searches for a way out of her inner exile.

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-10-397101-X
Author:
Antje Rávic Strubel
Pages:
432
Price:
€ 24.00
Es ist immer so schön mit dir

Es ist immer so schön mit dir (It’s Always So Lovely with You)

He’s a musician in his mid-forties and is not really unhappy with his dull life. Then he meets Vanessa, a...

He’s a musician in his mid-forties and is not really unhappy with his dull life. Then he meets Vanessa, a very young and extremely beautiful young actress. And for some inexplicable reason she is interested in him. She tries to convince him to give it all another go. He falls in love with her, leaves his girlfriend and embarks on an affair. His happiness and the chaos keep growing. Vanessa represents both of these to him. But he cannot leave this woman and her demons. In the end, could this be down to him and not Vanessa?

Publisher:
ISBN:
3-498-00198-1
Author:
Heinz Strunk
Pages:
288
Price:
€ 22.00