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Der Gewinner des Deutschen Buchpreises 2016: Bodo Kirchhoff © Claus Setzer

Bodo Kirchhoff wins German Book Prize 2016

Hamburg-born author tells of a journey without a destination in "Widerfahrnis". Jury praised the "existential questions" raised by Kirchhoff

Bodo Kirchoff, a native of Hamburg, won Monday (October 17th) the German Book Prize 2016 for his novel “Widerfahrnis” (Encounter). The prize was presented during a ceremony in the Kaisersaal of Frankfurt’s city hall, the Römer. The jury praised the novel as “a many-layered text that masterfully interweaves private and political existential questions”. The novel tells the tale of a former publisher and a hat seller who closed up shop owing to a lack of customers. The duo set out on an unprecedented journey without a destination, which eventually leads them south to Sicily. During their journey, they encounter people who are setting out in the opposite direction – from south to north.

Triumph over five other finalists

The novel’s title “Widerfahrnis” can be found in connection with theology, but not in the Duden dictionary of the German language, said Kirchoff in his acceptance speech. He described being the sole owner of “such a powerful word” as “a wonderful, perhaps queasy” or even “a crazy feeling”.

Kirchoff, who now lives in Frankfurt and at Lake Garda in Italy, beat five other finalists including Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker (Fremde Seele, dunkler Wald), André Kubiczek (Skizze eines Sommers), Thomas Melle (Die Welt im Rücken), Eva Schmidt (Ein langes Jahr) and Philipp Winkler (Hool) for the prize, which comes with a bourse of EUR 25,000. The jury drew up a longlist of 20 titles from 178 titles published between October 2015 and September 20, 2016. A shortlist of six novels was then put together.

Start of Frankfurt Book Fair

The German Book Prize is presented to the best German-language novel before the annual Frankfurt Book Fair by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels Stiftung – the Foundation of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association. This year’s Frankfurter Buchmesse is being held from October 19-23.

The jury included Thomas Andre (Hamburger Abendblatt), Lena Bopp (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), Berthold Franke (Goethe Institute Prague), Susanne Jäggi (Librium, Baden), Christoph Schröder (critic, Frankfurt), Sabine Vogel (Berliner Zeitung) and Najem Wali (author and critic, Berlin).

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