A prize of €100,000 was awarded to German writer Katja Oskamp as winner of the 2023 Dublin Literary Award, the world’s most valuable annual prize for a single work of fiction. Dublin City Council announced the winner on the 25th of May in Merrion Square Park, as part of the International Literary Festival.
The book, Marzahn, Mon Amour, was chosen from a longlist of 70 titles, and a shortlist of 6 titles. Nominated by Stadtbüchereien Düsseldorf library in Germany, it has been described as a ‘love letter’ to the suburb of Marzahn in East Berlin.
“My last manuscript had been rejected by 20 publishers and I had slipped into a writer’s block”
Remembering a time before she wrote the book, Oskamp said: ‘My last manuscript had been rejected by 20 publishers and I had slipped into a writer’s block. I didn’t want to be a writer anymore, I wanted to be a chiropodist’. She continued her award acceptance speech by explaining how the prize honoured not only her work as a writer and chiropodist, but also the biographies of other East Germans and the communities they share. ‘Libraries are places that combat isolation, just like a chiropody salon’, said Oskamp. She went on to thank the residents of Marzahn, her clients, and gloated with joy at speaking of the neighbourhood, and of being a proud East German author.
Oskamp was joined by the translator of her book, Jo Heinrich, who will receive a quarter of the prize money. (If the book has been translated the author receives €75,000 and the translator receives €25,000.) The winning book, Marzahn, Mon Amour, marked Heinrich’s debut as a literary translator. The award stands as an example in the anglophone space in its appreciation of the translator’s work. Out of the six shortlisted books, four were in translation. In total, 11 novels in translation have won the Dublin Literary Award.
During the interview, Heinrich spoke of the hardship translators face, despite being accepted for this commission after first approaching the publishers.
The following day, Katja Oskamp and Jo Heinrich appeared at the ILFDublin again for a more in depth look at the novel with Rick O’Shea. During the interview, Heinrich spoke of the hardship translators face, despite being accepted for this commission after first approaching the publishers. Oskamp was asked to speak further about Marzahn’s importance and ambience. She explained that despite its often-negative reputation and the connotations the name bears (‘a reputation created by people who had never been there’, she pointed out), she wanted to show ‘its better sides, the wonderful people who live there, the nice areas’, and the sense of community which is evident in the book.
The judges’ comments on the winning book included their appreciation of how ‘a greater portrait is achieved, and of how individuals are inevitably shaped by the ever-turning cogs of the machine of history.
The judges for this year’s prize were Gabriel Gbadamosi, Marie Hermet, Sarah Moss, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, and Arunava Sinha. Trinity College Dublin lecturer, Professor Chris Morash, was the non-voting chairperson of the judging panel. The judges’ comments on the winning book included their appreciation of how ‘a greater portrait is achieved, and of how individuals are inevitably shaped by the ever-turning cogs of the machine of history’.The author of the article with the translator of Marzahn, Mon Amour, Jo Heinrich.
MICHAELA KRÁLOVÁ (MÍŠA) is a poet, translator, researcher, and theatre-maker from Prague, Czech Republic. She is currently obtaining her M.Phil. in Literary Translation at the Trinity Centre for Literary and Cultural Translation, while also working as a research assistant at TCD. She is also the organizer of the Ukrainian Play Readings at TCD, which will take place again this June in the Long Room Hub and the Ukrainian Centre.