This year’s longlist brings together a lot of my personal highlights and three books which I have the honor of representing abroad:
- Charlotte Gneuß, GITTERSEE, S. Fischer, August, 240 pages:
The novel already won an important newcomer award, the Jürgen Ponto Prize 2023, and rights were pre-empted in Denmark (alpha).
The year is 1976 in the GDR. Karin, 16, lives in Dresden’s working-class suburb of Gittersee, where she looks after her toddler sister and helps her obstinate grandmother around the house, who is still lamenting the end of her time in the Wehrmacht. Karin’s father is struggling to keep his Skoda and family life running, while her mother wishes she had a different existence altogether. Karin’s only confidante is her friend Marie, a girl with big dreams: she wants to be the first woman on the moon. Karin is also head over heels in love with her boyfriend Paul, who aspires to be an artist but works in the mines. When Paul takes off on a weekend outing and doesn’t come back, two policemen turn up at Karin’s door asking his whereabouts. Her world is turned upside down and in her confusion, she seeks support from the attractive policeman Wickwalz. He in turn persuades her to inform on her family and friends as an unofficial collaborator. When she realises she’s been betrayed by Wickwalz, she takes drastic measures to break free again.
2. Sylvie Schenk, MAMAN, Carl Hanser, February, 176 pages:
MAMAN is both a daring endeavour and a highly explosive work of literature, a loving portrait of Schenk’s own mother, and a painful reckoning.
Sylvie Schenk’s mother was born in Lyon in 1916, and her grandmother died during her mother’s birth. Allegedly she was a silk worker, like her great-grandmother. But was this true? And what family history will be passed on to the next generation? As a child, Sylvie Schenk suffered from this lack of clarity, which still affects her today – a writer tormented by restlessness. With lyrical precision, she retraces the questions that her family history has left open.
3. Kathrin Röggla, ONGOING TRIAL, S. Fischer, July, 208 pages:
The author was awarded with this year’s Heinrich Böll Award for her fierce fictionalization of this open wound.
The trial of the members of the National Socialist Underground was described by observers as the most important trial since reunification and a glimpse into the abyss of German society. 9 murders and 58 other racist acts were tried in Munich over a period of 438 days. Resolution, justice, punishment and redemption; the expectations for the trial and the resulting verdict could hardly be met. „No closing the book on this!“ That was the demand of many voices from the civil suit after the verdict from the NSU trials. Too little had been explained, while too much had been promised politically. But what exactly happens with a trial whose limits are so vehemently disputed? Kathrin Röggla doesn’t talk about a closed case in the past tense (as is customary), and she adopts the deliberately unprofessional perspective of a “we” sitting at the top of seating for the general public. But who exactly are „we“ when every „we“ is called into question by the trial? With great accuracy, but also with astonishing comedy and musicality, Röggla’s novel tells of the roles and rules of the ongoing trial in order to arrive at a radically open, polyphonic form of resolution. It is a book about the active participation of all the people that make the court a vibrant place of democracy.