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Prizes at Leipzig

The Leipzig Book Fair, Germany’s second biggest book-related event after Frankfurt, ended this Sunday. The fair, which is oriented towards the reading public (as Frankfurt is oriented towards the trade) attracted a record number of visitors – 186,000, ten thousand more than last year – over four days.

The festival bestows two major book prizes, the Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding and the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair, the latter awarded in three categories. The European Understanding award went this year to the Romanian Mircea Cartarescu for his surreal political/satirical trilogy Orbitor. Cartarescu’s work has been translated into more than a dozen languages – and even English. The first volume of the trilogy appeared in the United States as Blinding: The left wing in 2013.

The Leipzig Book Fair Prize is awarded in the categories Belletristik, Übersetzung and Sachbuch, usually understood as fiction, translation and non-fiction (or essay). This year, however, the “fiction” prize went for the first time to a poet (Belletristik can encompass poetry), the Hamburg-born Jan Wagner, for his volume Regentonnenvatiationen (Rain Barrell Variations). The translation prize went to Mirjam Pressler, the author of more than thirty books for children and young adults, for her translation from the Hebrew of Amos Oz’s Judas. The non-fiction prize went to the historian Philipp Ther for his book Die neue Ordnung auf dem alten Kontinent, which will be published in English as The New Order on the Old Continent: A History of Neoliberal Europe. Ther, who teaches at the University of Vienna, is a specialist in the twentieth century history of central Europe, particularly in regard to the themes of nations, minorities, persecutions and expulsions.