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Prize Germans?: changing notions of Germanness and the role of the award-winning author into the twenty-first century

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date03/2014
JournalOxford German Studies
Number of pages18
Original languageEnglish


Germany has an unusually large number of literary prize foundations in international comparison. The historical and socio-political reasons for such a widespread ritual appropriation of ‘award-winning’ authors can tell us a great deal about changing notions of German cultural identity. This paper argues that where the long-running named literary prizes (such as the Büchner and Kleist prizes) place their laureates in a retrospective tradition that is firmly tied to national and regional cultural politics, a new breed of prizes - spearheaded by the German Book Prize - has emerged since the beginning of the twenty-first century that deliberately seeks to propel authors beyond the confines of the German literary field. These prizes proactively ‘celebrify’ the author with the explicit intention of bringing to market a self-consciously contemporary, more diverse image of Germanness. Pursuing a literary career in such a context is both a challenge and an opportunity, as the specific case of Daniel Kehlmann shows.

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