The sensitive coming-of-age story “Echtzeitalter” was named the best German-language novel of the year in Frankfurt.
The Austrian author Tonio Schachinger will receive the German Book Prize 2023 for his novel “Echtzeitalter”. This was announced by the German Book Trade Association on Monday in Frankfurt am Main.
About the German Book Prize
- The German Book Prize is considered one of the most important awards in the industry and has been awarded since 2005.
- The prize is worth a total of 37,500 euros: the winner receives 25,000 euros, the other authors on the shortlist each receive 2,500 euros.
- The book prize is awarded by the Book Culture and Reading Promotion Foundation of the German Book Trade Association.
- This year, a total of 196 novels from 113 German-language publishers were in the running.
- Last year the prize went to Kim de l’Horizon for the novel “Blood Book”.
Four years ago, Schachinger was on the shortlist for the renowned literary prize with his debut “Not like you”. At that time it was still on Saša Stanišić (“Origin”).
Coming-of-age novel about “gambling”
After the world of a football star, the 31-year-old takes on an elite Viennese school in his second novel, “Real Age”. The coming-of-age novel tells the story of high school student Till, who, without anyone knowing, is one of the ten best players in the world in a real-time strategy game.
Tonio Schachinger describes how Till survives eight years of school in a highly competitive environment with “Age of Empires 2” in his funny and touching book. It’s about the disintegration of the family, friendships, first love. And of course about gaming, because Till’s puberty took place largely online.
Tonio Schachinger: “Real Age”, 364 pages, Rowohlt Verlag 2023.
Anyone who reads the novel will probably be able to understand much better their own children, nephews, nieces or the neighborhood children who are constantly “gaming” on the Internet.
Jury praises topicality
«Schachinger reflects the political and social conditions of the present with subtle irony: brute force speaks from educated pupils. The world of computer games offers a place of fantasy and freedom,” the jury said in its statement.
“The text deals with the question of the social place of literature in a narratively outstanding and contemporary way. »
This year, the jury viewed a total of 196 novels from 113 German-language publishers.
Classifying words from the winner
During his acceptance speech, the young, somewhat shy-looking Tonio Schachinger explicitly did not thank the jury for the award, because they were only doing their job. Instead, he thanked his wife, from whom he learned everything he knew.
He also did not want to comment on Israel and the terrible events of the last week. Not out of disinterest, but out of the conviction that as a “little writer,” as he called himself, he didn’t have any big speeches to give. Nevertheless, in the very next sentence he said that in view of such events the importance of a book prize is greatly reduced.
On the one hand it is difficult not to say anything about it, but it is also pointless to say anything about it. “We may all find ourselves in a bit of this dilemma.”
An assessment of the award by Michael Luisier
Tonio Schachinger’s friendly appearance during the acceptance speech was typical of the entire event, which was more of a celebration of literature than in other years.
This was also due to the impressive welcoming words of the head of the cultural department of the city of Frankfurt, Dr. Ina Hartwig, who passionately pointed out that the exclusion of literature from public discussion was not only damaging to literature itself, but also to democracy.
In this “spirit of a common cause” one had the impression of being presented with six completely different but equally great works of literature, all of which not only deserved this prize, but were also the best advertisement for literature as a means of a social discourse as a whole: By the painful coming to terms with the SED dictatorship in Anne Rabe’s “The Possibility of Happiness” to the exuberant fantasy and linguistic magic in Ulrike Sterblich’s “Drifter”.
In this respect, Tonio Schachinger’s success can also be viewed as plausible and deserved without devaluing the other books. Tonio Schachinger is a gifted storyteller and has written a wonderful boarding school novel.
He describes the boarding school as a breeding ground for an elite who are not interested in education but in asserting their own status. He describes the depths of drill and educated middle-class ideals and connects them with the world of a teenager who, as a successful gamer, builds his own world that his parents cannot reach.
A typically Austrian novel in that the actual elite of the republic, who often don’t really think democratically, gets rid of their fat in an enjoyable way.
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