International Booker Prize 2024: German win for Kairos

Home US & World International Booker Prize 2024: German win for Kairos
International Booker Prize 2024: German win for Kairos

German writer Jenny Erpenbeck and translator Michael Hofmann have won the International Booker Prize.

Their novel Kairos follows the destructive love affair between a 19-year-old student and a married man in his 50s who meet on a bus in East Berlin around 1986.

Their relationship comes to embody the German Democratic Republic’s “crushed idealism” and eventual “dissolution of a whole political system”.

They will split the £50,000 prize.

Judges chose Kairos from a shortlist of six books and praised the “luminous prose” and rich quality of the translation.

“It starts with love and passion, but it’s at least as much about power, art and culture,” chair of judges Eleanor Wachtel said.

“The self-absorption of the lovers, their descent into a destructive vortex, remains connected to the larger history of East Germany during this period, often meeting history at odd angles.”

Last year’s winner, Time Shelter by Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov and translated by Angela Rodel, was also set during and after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Erpenbeck, 57, was born in Berlin and used to work as an opera director before becoming an award-winning novelist. Her works include The End of Days (2014) and Go, Went, Gone (2017) which was longlisted in 2018.

Hofmann, 66, has been called “arguably the world’s most influential translator, external of German into English”. Along with poetry and literary criticism, he teaches part-time at the University of Florida.

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