Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding 2022 goes to Karl-Markus Gauß

After Masha Gessen, Åsne Seierstad and Mathias Énard among many others, Karl-Markus Gauß received the 2022 Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding for his works, among them his stylistically, brilliant essays, reportage and travelogues collected in THE NEVER-ENDING TREK (Zsolnay 2020).

the jury’s statement:

»Europe? When you think of Europe today, the first things that come to mind are stories of decay, signs of disintegration and decline, and bogged-down, divided parliaments that insist on special national rights and have lost sight of European unity. And when talking about diversity, some may think of animal species that are dying out while others‘ minds will be on a variety of cheeses or travel destinations.

When Karl-Markus Gauss thinks about Europe – and there is probably no other writer in Europe who thinks as regularly and consistently about this small area to the west of the Russian Empire – he thinks of the minorities that still cling to the cracks of this crumbling structure: about the inhabitants of the Spis and the Batschka, about the Chaldean Christians in the Syrian Orthodox Church, who call themselves Assyrians and possibly live in the house next door, about the Aromanians, who speak a language of their own and live in the north of Greece, Bulgaria, northern Macedonia and Albania, or about the Roma, who can be found in Slovakia and anywhere else where people live both by the laws of exclusion and the (unwritten) rules of hospitality and are prepared to offer them somewhere to stay.

Karl-Markus Gauss, who himself comes from a so-called Danube Swabian family, has become a tireless, faithful, curious, attentive chronicler of all these minorities and their strange customs, languages, literature and religions. This traveller, praised for his subtle style devoid of arrogant pathos, has been observing cultural loss (especially in South-East Europe) for more than forty years and balancing this against the wealth of historical riches to be found there. He works like Sisyphus and is well aware that the boulder he has laboriously pushed up the mountain is sure to roll back down again despite his best efforts.

When not on the road he can be found in Salzburg, writing more travelogues about his relentless wanderings to add to the over ten volumes already published, or editing the literary magazine „Literatur und Kritik“, which he has been publishing for over thirty years. And when he does have to stay home, he goes on an „Adventurous Journey Through My Room“, one of his great books. Since he apparently doesn’t sleep much, he also writes extensive journals that show a politically alert, party-politically unaffiliated contemporary who, mercifully, has so much irony and wit that we are happy to let him shine a light into the abysses of our society. Hardly anyone else has spoken out so clearly against right-wing populism and campaigned so strongly for a humane refugee policy.

The Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding will be a tribute to a great European writer, continuing an illustrious line of Central European prize winners from Aleksandar Tišma to Claudio Magris.«


The book by Karl-Markus Gauß that you’ve always wanted to read. He reports on a Muslim sommelier in the Albanian town of Berat and recounts the jaw-dropping story of Central Europe’s largest military training area. He praises the richness of European languages and draws parallels between modern society, hungry for sensation and bygone audiences of
gladiators. Wherever we follow him, we walk in the footsteps of a sensitive flâneur who creates universal observations from details.

In his new book, Gauß, a »specialist of remote places« captivates the reader with his distinctive point of view, his mastery of multiple genres and elegant style.

„Encounters, observations and contemplations – Karl-Markus Gauß not only knows how to focus his interest on the remote, but also how to transform what he has seen into literature in a stylistically refined, sometimes ironic, sometimes sympathetic, but always precise manner.“ Ulrich Rüdenauer, Südwest Presse

“This is exactly what makes these travel reports so attractive: They combine anecdotes and descriptions of scenes with intellectual reflection. (…) It is thanks to sensitive noses like Gauss that our cultural and historical roots have not yet been completely forgotten. ” Terry Albrecht, Deutschlandfunk Büchermarkt

„Once again Gauss shows himself to be an eminent connoisseur of Eastern European cultures and a critical observer of contemporary history. In his case, the gift of descriptive portrayal is combined with intellectual conciseness.“ Manfred Papst, NZZ Books on Sunday

»Karl-Markus Gauss is a specialist in uncovering connections. That is the great skill of his storytelling.« J. Friedrich-Freska, Die Zeit

»I don’t need books for a desert island. I have Karl-Markus Gauß’ books. They give you a solid foundation.« Robert Menasse

Karl-Markus Gauß was born in 1954 in Salzburg. He still lives there today, working as an author and editor of the Journal Literatur und Kritik. His books have been translated into many languages and won him numerous awards, including the Charles Veillon European Essay Prize, the Vilenica Prize for Central European Literature, the Georg Dehio Book Award, the Johann Heinrich Merck prize and most recently the Jean-Améry-Prize. His latest publications by Zsolnay: Zwanzig Lewa oder tot (2017) and Abenteuerliche Reise durch mein Zimmer (2019).