Dublin City Council today announced German writer Katja Oskamp as the winner of the 2023 Dublin Literary Award, the world’s most valuable annual prize for a single work of fiction with a prize of €100,000.
Oskamp’s winning book, Marzahn, Mon Amour, is a love letter to the Berlin district of Marzahn, where Oskamp worked as a chiropodist after giving up on her career as a writer.
Initially, Oskamp didn’t believe that she had won. “It took some time until it sank in. I didn’t really believe it because sometimes you are being taken for a ride with fake news but when I trusted the information I honestly had to take a lot of alcohol in order to quench my joy!
“This prize honours my work as a writer and as a chiropodist in the most wonderful way possible. I am proud that the jury’s decision draws attention to the moving biographies of my East German compatriots.”
The book is part-memoir, part collective history, told through the stories of Oskamp’s clients and is a moving portrait of ordinary life and the joy to be found in community.
The book’s translator Jo Heinrich receives one quarter of the €100,000 prize money. The book is Heinrich’s debut as a literary translator, having previously worked translating brochures for shoe companies. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I never thought we’d have a chance against such a strong shortlist.”
“I can’t get over the warm reception this book has had, and the way people have really taken it into their hearts. The last few weeks have been mind-blowing for a newbie translator; my concentration span has been decidedly lacking since I heard we’d be here in Dublin – but this is the absolute high point of my life, and I really cannot thank you all enough.”
There were six books on the shortlist, including Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr and The Trees by Percival Everett. Nominated by Stadtbüchereien Düsseldorf in Germany, the winning novel was chosen from a longlist of 70 titles nominated by 84 libraries from 31 countries.
The non-voting chairperson of the judging panel, Prof Chris Morash, said, “Every so often, you come across a novel whose simple, direct honesty knocks you sideways. There is an unaffected humility and generosity about Katja Oskamp’s Marzhan, Mon Amour that speaks to the value of community and to the dignity of ordinary lives.”
Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy said “Marzahn, Mon Amour is a beautifully written novel. It’s a warm, witty and moving portrait of older residents in Berlin, which offers the reader an insight into a community often overlooked.”
Katja Oskamp and Jo Heinrich will appear at ILFDublin, for an in-depth conversation about the novel, with broadcaster Rick O’Shea, on Friday, May 26th, at 6.15pm in Merrion Square Park (Speranza stage). Book here to attend in person or online.
Copies of the winning title are available to borrow from Dublin City Libraries and from public libraries throughout Ireland. Readers can also borrow the winning novel on BorrowBox in eBook format. Further details about the Award and the winning novel are available on the Award website at dublinliteraryaward.ie
Established in 1994 and sponsored by Dublin City Council, the Dublin Literary Award aims to promote excellence in world literature by presenting an award annually to a novel written in or translated into English. Nominations are made by 84 libraries from 31 countries around the world to create a longlist of some 70 titles.
A six-member international judging panel then selects the winner. This year’s panel included Gabriel Gbadamosi, an Irish and Nigerian poet, playwright and critic based in London, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, the bilingual poet and author of A Ghost In The Throat, and Sarah Moss, author and assistant professor of creative writing at UCD.
Asked how she might use her prize money, Oskamp said, ‘I’m just glad I don’t have to worry about the next few months or years, that I can pay for my life. It might not be so exciting or sexy but overall I’m just going to use the money to live from it.”
An interview with Katja Oskamp and Jo Heinrich will appear in The Irish Times on May 31st