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Back To OverviewPrice Winner 2009

Claudio Magris

The Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade has chosen Italian author Claudio Magris to be the recipient of this year’s Peace Prize. The award ceremony has taken place during the Frankfurt Book Fair on Sunday, October 18, 2009 in the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt, Germany. The laudatory speech was given by Karl Schlögel.

Claudio Magris
© Ulf Andersen

Reason of the jury

“The German Publishers and Booksellers Association awards the 2009 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade to Claudio Magris. In so doing, the association and its members have chosen to honor the Italian literary scholar, essayist, novelist and rare examiner of the problems associated with how different cultures interact and live together.

In numerous works, Magris speaks of the diversity of systems and languages in Central Europe – of their peculiarities and opposites. He brings together narratives, ruminations, facts and fiction in a thoroughly inimitable literary manner. Magris shows just how creative these differences can be when they are respected and considered in terms of their very uniqueness. This way of understanding the world has led him to become an ardent opponent of exclusionary mind-sets and a vigorous foe of attitudes of dominance held by one culture over another.

Claudio Magris argues in favor of a Europe whose self-understanding is not based purely upon economic criteria. Instead, he supports one that takes full account of – and insists upon – its historical and cultural tradition and diversity. It is an understanding of individual humanism that derives from the cultural tradition of Central Europe, and it embraces what Claudio Magris calls “our ironic feeling for the diverse.”


Biography Claudio Magris

Claudio Magris was born on April 10, 1939, in Trieste, Italy. He is one of the world’s most important scholars of German literature and society, one of Italy’s most brilliant cultural commentators and one of Europe’s most important writers and essayists.

After studying at the University of Turin and in Freiburg/Breisgau, Magris earned his doctorate and completed his Habilitation in German Literature in 1966, which enabled him to pursue his professional career as a full professor at the university level. As a professor of German language and literature at the University of Trieste, where he worked until he received emeritus status in 2006, Magris oversaw the translation of many works of German authors, including Arthur Schnitzler and Georg Büchner, into Italian. As an essayist and columnist at the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Magris was also an outspoken critic of national and foreign policy matters. From 1994 to 1996, he was an independent member of a leftist coalition representing the region of Trieste in the Italian senate. In 2002, together with Umberto Eco and many other leading artistic and cultural figures, he co-founded the “Libertà e Giustizia” (Liberty and Justice) movement, which opposed many of the policies of the Italian government led by Silvio Berlusconi.

Magris has received a great deal attention for his literary activities. At the center of his work is an exploration of the cultural and political diversity of European society, and especially that of the mythical European “Mittelreich” (Middle Kingdom), its literary capitals and citizens. He first received international attention for his dissertation entitled The Hapsburg Myth in Austrian Literature, which was published in 1963. Together with the historian Angelo Ara, he published an essay entitled Trieste – A Literary Capital in Central Europe (1983) which, along with his book Danube (1986), brought Magris to the attention of a larger audience. His Blindlings (2005), a complicated novel about shattered illusions which he worked on for 18 years, was met with much excitement. In his latest work, A Hippopotamus in Lund, which was published this year in German, Magris brings together stories that he has collected along his many wide-ranging journeys throughout Europe. 

Claudio Magris is a member of a number of associations, including the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung, the Akademie der Künste (Berlin), the Accademia delle Scienze di Torino and the Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste (Munich). He has received several prestigious awards for his literary work and his holistic exploration of European history in all its cultural diversity, including: the Goethe Medal (1980), the Manès Sperber Prize (1987), the Prix France Culture Étranger (1993), the Strega Prize (1997), the Würth Prize for European Literature (2000), the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding (2001), the Erasmus Prize (2001), the  Prince of Asturia’s Award for Literature (2004), the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (2005), the Kythera Prize (2007), the Walter Hallstein Prize (2008) and, in 2009, the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Claudio Magris lives in Trieste, Italy, and has two children.


Laudatory speaker Karl Schlögel

Karl Schlögel, born on March 7, 1948 in Hawangen in Allgaeu, studied at the Freie Universität Berlin and in Moscow and Leningrad, and was awarded his doctorate in 1981 in Berlin. Since then, Karl Schlögel has worked as a freelance author and scholar, writing various works on the history of Eastern Europe dealing mainly with cultural history issues. He was appointed Professor for Eastern European History at the University of Konstanz in 1990. From 1994-2013 he was teaching at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt an der Oder.

For his book “Terror und Traum. Moscow 1937” (2008), he was awarded the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding 2009. 2012 he was awarded the Franz-Werfel-Human-Rights-Prize. His new book „Grenzland Europa: Unterwegs auf einem neuen Kontinent“ will be released in September 2013