MARZAHN, MON AMOUR wins Dublin Literary Award 2023

Katja Oskamp’s fabulous auto-fictional book MARZAHN, MON AMOUR just won the Dublin Literary Award 2023. In it a failed writer seeks a second chance in life and becomes a chiropodist, taking care of peoples feet and lotion-ing away while the people of Marzahn, a famous working-class East Berlin neighborhood, tell her their life stories. Beautiful and moving! In the words of the jury:

We meet character after character as the narrator does, through their feet, and through this slow, deliberate culmination of vignettes, […] a greater portrait is achieved, that of how individuals are inevitably shaped by the ever-turning cogs of the machine of history. Readers, you’ve never read a book like this; expect to find yourself laughing aloud one moment, and deeply moved the next.“ – the jury×4096

  • winner of the Dublin Literary Award 2023
  • a SPIEGEL bestseller: 180.000 copies sold
  • complete Swedish translation available
  • complete English translation available
  • rights sold to UK (Peirene Press Ltd.), France (Editions Zulma), Italy (L’Orma Editore), Spain (Hoja de Lata), Sweden (Rámus Förlag), Greece (Vakxikon)

Katja Oskamp is in her mid-forties when her life grows dull. Her child has left home, her husband is ill, and her writing, which was her all up till then, is only a source of disappointment. She does something that would amount to failure for others: she becomes a chiropodist. And starts to record what she hears in stories full of humanity and wit.

Berlin-Marzahn was once the largest prefabricated housing estate in the GDR. Here lives Mr. Paulke, one of the first residents forty years ago; Mrs. Guse, who is slowly retreating backwards from the world; and Mr. Pietsch, the former bureaucrat with his checked flat cap. They are all heading towards old age and need patching up – and their regular appointments to have nails cut and corns removed are, above all, an opportunity to talk. Katja Oskamp listens and creates miraculous stories about people, seen from the perspective of their feet. These are the kind of stories you don’t hear when people talk about each other in this country. Yet they happen everywhere.

„One reads this and is delighted by the robust poetry with which Katja Oskamp describes this world of the old and the remaining, who are often also witty and wise people and cultivate a defiant pride in their homeland. There is no trace of the usual ethnosociological amazement in literature about how life is down there. She writes of the nobility of the people, and her stories are true, also because they are funny and beautiful.“

Hilmar Klute, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 07/06/2019

„‚Marzahn, mon amour‘: this is the city in its dregs. The stories are on the street, it is sometimes said, rarely was that more true. Katja Oskamp has bent over backwards, made a convincing piece of literature out of the found objects.“

Cornelia Geißler, Frankfurter Rundschau/Berliner Zeitung, 07/22/2019

„In addition to empathy and curiosity, Katja Oskamp is most certainly helped by her sense of comedy in getting the most diverse types to talk or sometimes to be silent, in filtering stories out of words and telling them in such a way that images of people fan out.“

Janina Fleischer, Leipziger Volkszeitung, 07/26/2019

„‚Marzahn, mon amour‘ radiates an enormous warmth of heart and love for the people who visit Katja Oskamp from the first to the last page.“

Andreas Schröter, Ruhr Nachrichten, 07/22/2019

„That’s what made these portraits so special: they are carried by a fundamental sympathy, no matter which stinky foot of the way comes. Katja Oskamp never writes larmoyantly, and if a bitterness does

and if bitterness does creep in, it is covered with self-irony and wit. The stories make for an accurate and amusing social study.“

Karin Grossmann, Sächsische Zeitung, 07/25/2019

„Between footbaths and pedicures, the customers tell stories from their lives. They are tragedies, comedies, fates – often served in a direct tone and with dry Berlin snark. And now they can be read together: In ‚Marzahn – mon amour,‘ Katja Oskamp has dedicated an equally touching and entertaining homage to the former largest prefabricated housing area in the GDR and its residents, just in time for the 40th year of its creation.“

Jörg Thadeusz, Rbb Fernsehen, 06.08.2019

„‚Marzahn, mon amour‘ – touching, funny, thought-provoking.“

Claudia von Duehren, Berliner Zeitung, 08/06/2019

„Katja Oskamp’s book is an impressive account of the urban microcosm that is Marzahn, in which the preconceptions about this quarter of Berlin are both confirmed and overturned. Last but not least, the book also tells the story of how a female writer builds up a new existence, despite the disinterest of the literary establishment and against the social resistance that middle-aged women have to struggle with.“

Uwe Schütte, Freitag, 08.08.2019

„‚Marzahn, mon amour‘ is not a bitter novel of fate that she has written there, but a declaration of love. A warm, witty, exciting collection of life stories that otherwise remain hidden – told from the feet up.“

Katharina Kluin, Stern, 08.08.2019

„‚Marzahn mon amour‘ is Katja Oskamp’s invitation to visit the spacious residential areas in Berlin’s east and discover their charms.“

Michael Pilz, Welt, Aug. 10, 2019

„Exposing, but always affectionate, Katja Oskamp […] tells of the people on the fringes of society. Literature from the people. [It is] soothing to read such novels.“

Welf Gombacher, Freie Presse, Aug. 15, 2019

„There is a lot of laughter in the stories. There is dying; hard things are called by their names, and there are also stories about very unsympathetic people. Anyone who, like Katja Oskamp, is willing to get down on their knees to look at the world and people from below has a good chance of broadening their horizons in all directions. Thorough as a writer, too, her texts are polished and condensed to the important.“

Bernadette Conrad, St. Galler Tagblatt, Aug. 17, 2019

„No foot without a person, no person without a story. Oskamp mills and cuts and listens, writes it down afterwards, and creates a socially realistic, emotionally engaged literature where you rarely get out of laughing or wondering. These stories are about

minimum pensions and loneliness, about dreamed futures and transfigured pasts, about the self-assertion of ‚ordinary people‘ and their not-so-easy attitudes toward life.“

Sebastian Hofer, 08/18/2019

„[T]he texts [are] literary in form, in a warm-hearted, precise language, not freely invented […]. Katja Oskamp must have experienced something, sensed something, before she can write about it. There is a great soul in the book: strength, kindness and humility.“

Irmtraud Gutschke, Neues Deutschland, Aug. 21, 2019

„Hardly anyone can tell so beautifully about life: Katja Oskamp started over again in her mid-40s – as a chiropodist in Berlin-Marzahn!“

IN, the Star & Style Magazine, 21.08.2019

„‚Marzahn – mon amour‘ is in my eyes one of the few books that – without meaning to – really go to the heart and make even hard-boiled people […] cry. Because it’s so overflowing with love, respect and understanding that something rubs off on the reader while reading it, leaving you satisfied and grateful. […] Just listen, give a few minutes of your time, that’s all it takes to make the people around you a tiny bit more content and – as pathetic as it may sound – make the world a little bit better.“

Tobias Nazemi, Book Quarter, 08/23/2019

„The wonderful thing about „Marzahn, mon amour“ is the loving attention with which Katja Oskamp tells about her customers. They are people about whom no books are otherwise written. But their stories are anything but boring. Katja Oskamp humorously describes people who defy illness and loneliness. And always experience small, beautiful moments that make the gray of everyday life shimmer.“

Stefan Keim, WDR, Sept. 17, 2019

„There is a new story in every chapter. That’s why the book is perfect for in between. Katja Oskamp tells the stories so genuinely and unadulterated that you feel like you’re sitting in the cosmetics studio in the 18-story high-rise in Marzahn.“

Daniela Diaz, WDR 1 Live Stories, Sept. 19, 2019

„In a tender way, the book pays homage to the (mostly elderly) people who live in Marzahn, some for more than 30 years. Oskamp has the gift of vividly, sensitively and humorously sketching entire life histories and personal idiosyncrasies on just a few pages. […] She sets a literary monument not only to the people of Marzahn, but also to an entire profession.“

Holger Moos, Goethe Magazine, 09/20/2019

„With the same care that Oskamp gives to feet, she attends to [her clients‘] chapped, damaged resumes. She has an eye for the little and bigger foibles, a sure sense of situational comedy, but above all, she has a big heart. One is repeatedly touched by the loving, almost tender sympathy with which she memorializes her mostly old, often already severely handicapped regular clientele.“

Frank Schäfer, taz, 09/21/2019

„Oskamp writes biographies in a way we never get to read otherwise. […] These are poetic condensations in which she sets a monument to people.“

Katharina Teutsch, Deutschlandfunk, Oct. 02, 2019

„Katja Oskamp writes […] wonderfully and […] shapes literarily very skillfully.“

Martin Ebel, SRF Kultur, 08.10.2019

„Eighteen portraits, some profound, some anecdotally brief, result in a book full of life that shows a piece of everyday history in Berlin from an unprecedented perspective: from the stool of a chiropodist.“

Eva Pfister, Lesart 03/2019

„With warmth, but also with tomboyish wit, Oskamp unfolds a hidden object picture in the Plattenbau.[…] The fact that the whole thing doesn’t slide into the poseable is due to the fact that the author doesn’t conceal the biographical hardships of her characters.“

Katharina Teutsch, ZEIT, 11/21/2019

„Katja Oskamp succeeds in a view that is far from a fascination for the simple; it is a warm view for the very different life stories into which illnesses and (world) history have cut their aisles.“, 18.01.2020

„The district’s biggest image campaign is not found on billboards, in advertisements or social media posts. It’s currently in stacks in bookstores and probably has a place on many a nightstand – and it’s been on Spiegel and Buchreport’s bestseller list for eight weeks: ‚Marzahn, mon amour‘ by Katja Oskamp.“

Ingo Salmen, Tagesspiegel Newsletter, 04.02.2020

„In this story, strong life material has found a language, as distinctive as each of these simple, unique personalities. Succinct sentences model striking characters. They don’t just reach Berlin’s Plattenbau residents. Readers from West Germany, from Switzerland are enthusiastic. „

Tomas Gärtner, Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten, 28.02.20

„Katja Oskamp knows no fear of contact. The material falls at her feet. With empathy and impartiality, with respect for her personnel – older people, most of whom have long since retired and lived their lives – she reaches out and writes a panorama of the invisible.“

Michael Schreiner, Augsburger Allgemeine, 05.03.20

„Katja Oskamp is brilliant. As a stylist as well as an observer. […] When, if not in the time of the pandemic, will we get away from status thinking? Aren’t we all the same after all? Now is the time to discover milieus with which we believe we have no points of contact. There are finely honed works of linguistic art to marvel at in the biographies of the district party secretaries and carpenters.“

Susanne Schreiber, Handelsblatt, 04.04.20

„‚Marzahn, mon amour‘ is a declaration of love both to the neighborhood and to its residents, especially those who entrust their feet to Katja Oskamp. Oskamp writes so warmly about both Marzahn and her clientele that it makes your heart swell. Every pair of feet a story.“, 18’9.04.20

„Reading in Corona Times: In addition to their daily work, German President Steinmeier and Elke Büdenbender use their time at home to read. Elke Büdenbender chose ‚Marzahn, mon amour‘: ‚Touching, melancholic, funny and clever stories about people from Marzahn. Katja Oskamp is excellent at capturing the essence of the people. They come very much alive in her portraits. A strong book.“

President Steinmeier, Instagram, 04/23/20

„These stories are for laughing and for crying, but they never slip into cliché.“

Josefine Janert, Cicero, 07.05.20