Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding

The Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding is one of the most prestigious literature prizes in Germany. It has been awarded annually since 1994 and comes with prize money of 20,000 euros. The prize committee includes the Free State of Saxony, the City of Leipzig, the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels e.V. (The German Publishers and Booksellers Association) and Leipziger Messe. Cooperation partner is the Federal Agency for Civid Education.

1st Place Winner Karl-Markus Gauss (image source: © Marco Riebler)

Karl-Markus Gauss is the 1st Place Winner 2022

The Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding 2022 will be awarded to the Austrian writer and passionate advocate of enlightenment Karl-Markus Gauß for his book "Die unaufhörliche Wanderung: Reportagen" (stories of an endless journey). The book is a collection of delicate stories about special places and people in Europe. It was published in October 2020 by the Paul Zsolnay Verlag in Vienna. The prize will be awarded at the opening ceremony of the Leipzig Book Fair on the evening of 16 March 2022 at Gewandhaus Leipzig. The laudation will be given by Austrian germanist, literary critic and essayist Daniela Strigl.

Statement from the jury:

Europe? When you think of Europe today, the first things that come to mind are stories of decay, signs of disintegration and decline, and bogged-down, divided parliaments that insist on special national rights and have lost sight of European unity. And when talking about diversity, some may think of animal species that are dying out while others' minds will be on a variety of cheeses or travel destinations.

When Karl-Markus Gauss thinks about Europe – and there is probably no other writer in Europe who thinks as regularly and consistently about this small area to the west of the Russian Empire – he thinks of the minorities that still cling to the cracks of this crumbling structure: about the inhabitants of the Spis and the Batschka, about the Chaldean Christians in the Syrian Orthodox Church, who call themselves Assyrians and possibly live in the house next door, about the Aromanians, who speak a language of their own and live in the north of Greece, Bulgaria, northern Macedonia and Albania, or about the Roma, who can be found in Slovakia and anywhere else where people live both by the laws of exclusion and the (unwritten) rules of hospitality and are prepared to offer them somewhere to stay.

Karl-Markus Gauss, who himself comes from a so-called Danube Swabian family, has become a tireless, faithful, curious, attentive chronicler of all these minorities and their strange customs, languages, literature and religions. This traveller, praised for his subtle style devoid of arrogant pathos, has been observing cultural loss (especially in South-East Europe) for more than forty years and balancing this against the wealth of historical riches to be found there. He works like Sisyphus and is well aware that the boulder he has laboriously pushed up the mountain is sure to roll back down again despite his best efforts.

When not on the road he can be found in Salzburg, writing more travelogues about his relentless wanderings to add to the over ten volumes already published, or editing the literary magazine "Literatur und Kritik", which he has been publishing for over thirty years. And when he does have to stay home, he goes on an "Adventurous Journey Through My Room", one of his great books. Since he apparently doesn't sleep much, he also writes extensive journals that show a politically alert, party-politically unaffiliated contemporary who, mercifully, has so much irony and wit that we are happy to let him shine a light into the abysses of our society. Hardly anyone else has spoken out so clearly against right-wing populism and campaigned so strongly for a humane refugee policy.

The Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding will be a tribute to a great European writer, continuing an illustrious line of Central European prize winners from Aleksandar Tišma to Claudio Magris.

Critical and Fair: The Jury

  • Skadi Jennicke (Mayor for Culture of the City of Leipzig)
  • Michael Krüger (author, publisher, translator, Munich)
  • Johannes Riis (publisher, Copenhagen)
  • Elisabeth Ruge (author, publisher, literary agent, Berlin)
  • Daniela Strigl (essayist, critic, lecturer, Vienna)

Previous Award Winners

  • 2021: Johny Pitts (Great Britain)
  • 2020: László Földényi (Hungary)
  • 2019: Masha Gessen (USA)
  • 2018: Åsne Seierstad (Norway)
  • 2017: Mathias Énard (France)
  • 2016: Heinrich August Winkler (Germany)
  • 2015: Mircea Cărtărescu (Romania)
  • 2014: Pankaj Mishra (India)
  • 2013: Klaus-Michael Bogdal (Germany)
  • 2012: Ian Kershaw und Timothy Snyder (Great Britain and USA)
  • 2011: Martin Pollack (Austria)
  • 2010: György Dalos (Germany)
  • 2009: Karl Schlögel (Germany)
  • 2008: Geert Mak (Netherlands)
  • 2007: Gerd Koenen (Germany) und Michail Ryklin (Russia)
  • 2006: Juri Andruchowytsch (Ukraine)
  • 2005: Slavenka Drakulić (Croatia), lebt in Stockholm, Wien und Sovinjak (Croatia)
  • 2004: Dževad Karahasan (Bosnia & Herzegovina), lebt in Graz und Sarajevo
    (Recognition Award: Gábor Csordás, Hungary)
  • 2003: Hugo Claus (Belgium)
    (Recognition Award: Barbara Antkowiak, Germany)
  • 2002: Bora Ćosić (Croatia), lebt in Rovinj (Croatia) und Berlin
    (Recognition Award: Ludvik Kundera, Czech Republic)
  • 2001: Claudio Magris (Italy)
    (Recognition Award: Norbert Randow, Germany)
  • 2000: Hanna Krall (Poland)
    (Recognition Award: Peter Urban, Germany)


Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding
c/o City of Leipzig, Dezernat Kultur
Karin Rolle-Bechler

Phone: +49 341 123-4207
Email: buchpreis@leipzig.de
Website: www.leipzig.de/buchpreis