German Non-Fiction Prize 2023

As the official English-language media partner for the German Non-fiction Prize 2023, we are delighted to announce the winning book below and to provide an overview of all shortlisted books.

A Farm and Eleven Children. The Quiet Farewell to Farming Life in Germany wins the German Non-fiction Prize 2023!

About the Book

In the course of the 1960s, rural agriculture with livestock markets, self-sufficiency and hard back-breaking work disappeared rapidly yet very quietly in Germany. Drawing on the example of his family, Ewald Frie writes of the great break. With just a few strokes, he shows how his parents’ world died out, his siblings followed other ways of life and overall social change took hold of the country.

The jury said:

People everywhere are quietly bidding farewell to rural life. Ewald Frie takes a surprising and personal perspective on this process of change. Using his family from the Münsterland region as an example, he describes tensions that have developed between town and country, and which we are currently grappling with intensely. With his astonishingly simple yet also poetic language – always empathetic, never nostalgic – Frie allows us to enter a world in transition. Based on interviews with his siblings, Ewald Frie has written a profound work of historical non-fiction that is also accessible and entertaining. This history of everyday life is rooted in details that are easy to overlook and from which great ideas develop. An inspiring example of innovative historiography.

To read more about the book, including a sample translation and the publisher’s contact details, please click here.

We send out warmest congratulations to the author and publisher!

The shortlist

We are pleased to share information on all of the books shortlisted for the German Non-fiction Prize 2023. Below, you will find a short summary of each book and the jury’s comments.

Jury comments on the shortlist:  

Non-fiction books that encourage their readers to keep thinking and change their perspective – this is what mattered to the jury throughout. And the authors of the nominated titles succeed in this brilliantly. They shed light on current debates and crises, open up new perspectives and propose solutions. How much individuality can a society take? Is there a fairer way to organise work? Why do we find it so difficult to deal with refugees in a humane way? Looking back to history, the nominated authors explain conflicts such as the Russia-Ukraine war. Making connections between disciplines, they ask: How did morality develop and what are the limits of the human ability to cooperate? Taking very personal, autobiographical standpoints, they provide explanations for foreignness, the contrasts between city and country, and anti-Semitism. Intelligent, far-sighted, committed and knowledgeable – these are the qualities that make the nominated titles stand out. 

The jury of the German Non-Fiction Prize 2023

f.l.t.r.: Dr. Jeanne Rubner, Michael Lemling, Stefan Koldehoff, Dr. Adam Soboczynski, Dr. Mirjam Zadoff, Prof. Dr. Julika Griem, Prof. Dr. Markus Rex

Please note: These books appear on our website as we the English language media partner for the German Non-fiction Prize. However, only books selected by our jury qualify for guaranteed translation funding, not books which are mentioned on the website in articles and informational updates such as this one.

The Shortlist

Omri Boehm: Radikaler Universalismus. Jenseits von Identität (Radical Universalism. Beyond Identity) (Propyläen) 

Click here to read a sample translation

The question of identity has occupied the entire political spectrum. Meanwhile, universalism has shrunk to an empty shell. In his book, Omri Boehm looks for a way out of the deadlocked debate. 

The jury said: ‘The idea of universally applicable foundations for human coexistence seems to have deteriorated. Hostile discourse camps accuse each other of exaggerating specific interests and their conceptions of identity. With his invitation to rethink basic universalist concepts, Omri Boehm disrupts these debates. His book makes demands; it does not cosy up. It takes us back to figures like Job, Kant and Martin Luther King, drawing connections between biblical stories and contemporary controversies. It invites us to distance ourselves from contemporary debates by questioning the differences between interests and feelings, means and ends, and even value and dignity. Here, political philosophy encounters the present – with the stimulating presumption that divisible basic principles can be understood as being more than just an expression of conformity and consensus.’

For foreign rights enquiries please contact: Sebastian Ritscher at Mohrbooks sebastian.ritscher@mohrbooks.com


Teresa Bücker: Alle_Zeit. Eine Frage von Macht und Freiheit (All_Time. A Question of Power and Freedom) (Ullstein) 

Click here to read a sample translation by Caroline Waight

Access to time is a question of power and freedom. Today, the majority of time is dedicated to gainful employment; only what can be exploited economically is considered valuable. The distribution of time is extremely unfair – material wealth has not translated into time wealth. Teresa Bücker presents concrete suggestions for what a modern time culture could look like. 

The jury said: ‘The journalist Teresa Bücker is in search of a path to a fairer society for all. Devoting less time to gainful employment is one way this could be achieved: a maximum of 20 hours of work per week with full pay, fairer distribution of care work and more time for social relationships. And not as an aim for the individual but for society as a whole in a “caring democracy”, which would have to begin in the family, where the root of the problem still lies, due to the incompatibility of paid and domestic work. Bücker develops a comprehensible model for a new time culture and time policy. Consequently, her book is dedicated to a topic that does not concern a phenomenon of time but a fundamental sociological question – while also taking on many social, political and economic issues of our time.’ 

For foreign rights enquiries please contact: Annemarie Blumenhagen annemarie.blumenhagen@ullstein.de


Ewald Frie: Ein Hof und elf Geschwister. Der stille Abschied vom bäuerlichen Leben in Deutschland (A Farm and Eleven Children. The Quiet Farewell to Farming Life in Germany) (C.H.Beck) 

Click here to read a sample translation

In the course of the 1960s, rural agriculture with livestock markets, self-sufficiency and hard back-breaking work disappeared rapidly yet very quietly in Germany. Drawing on the example of his family, Ewald Frie writes of the great break. With just a few strokes, he shows how his parents’ world died out, his siblings followed other ways of life and overall social change took hold of the country. 

The jury said: ‘The peasant world of hard work in the fields, milking cows and castrating piglets, of religiosity and self-sufficiency – this way of life has disappeared so quietly that one can only wonder in retrospect. Sixty-year-old history professor Ewald Frie himself comes from a farming family. In this book, he talks to his siblings about their common origins and home, lovingly and unpretentiously evoking a way of life that is no longer familiar to many. And he takes stock: What has been lost with urbanisation and the expansion of education? What have we gained with social change? The fact that Frie does not always have simple answers to simple questions is one of the strengths of this book, which is as entertaining as it is insightful.’

For foreign rights enquiries please contact: Susanne Simor at Susanne.simor@beck.de, Tel. +49 89 38189-228 


Judith Kohlenberger: Das Fluchtparadox. Über unseren widersprüchlichen Umgang mit Vertreibung und Vertriebenen (The Paradox of Fleeing. On Our Contradictory Approach to Displacement and Displaced Persons) (Kremayr & Scheriau) 

Click here to read a sample translation by Peter Waugh

Fleeing is paradoxical: to seek safety, people must risk their lives. To have the right to asylum, they must break the law – only to then have to grapple with contradictory demands and impossible attributes ascribed to them in their host countries. Judith Kohlenberger shows how we can arrive at a humane asylum and integration policy if we trust the strength of institutions, the rule of law and civil society. 

The jury said: ‘European asylum and migration policy is riddled with contradictions. Refugees are compelled to put their lives in danger in order to find protection. When crossing borders, they are forced to break the law in order to claim their right to asylum. They are expected to be at once in need of protection and willing to work, to integrate into their host countries, but to remain forever cap in hand.  

With great nuance, Judith Kohlenberger details the legal, social and political developments in our approach to fleeing and expulsion in the 20th and 21st centuries and exposes the paradoxes in current discourse. She provides intelligent and convincing answers to the question of what a humane asylum and integration policy could look like, and how Europe can live up to its responsibilities in this regard.’

For foreign rights enquiries please contact:

Roxana Höchsmann at r.hoechsmann@kremayr-scheriau.at


Meron Mendel: Über Israel reden. Eine deutsche Debatte (Talking About Israel. A German Debate) (Kiepenheuer & Witsch) 

Click here for a sample translation by Dr Lydia White

When Meron Mendel came to Germany 20 years ago, he was surprised to discover how important Israel is in the country’s public discourse: everyone has an opinion about Israel. Why is that? Why is such importance attached to the conflict in the Middle East? And why is the debate so emotional – and often so toxic? 

The jury said: ‘For weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have been demonstrating in the streets of Israel to preserve their democracy. The country is in the midst of its greatest crisis since its founding 75 years ago. In his partly autobiographical essay “Über Israel reden – eine deutsche Debatte” (“Talking About Israel – a German Debate”), Meron Mendel addresses the major controversies of recent years, exploring Israel and the German raison d’état, anti-Semitism and the culture of remembrance, the so-called ‘Historikerstreit’ (historians’ dispute) and Documenta. As an educator, Mendel aims for a mediating position, seeking to build bridges between opponents. At the same time, he also ventures into the Middle East conflict itself, calling into question the entrenched ideas Israelis and Palestinians have of each other. A level-headed book that strives for balance in heated debates. 

For foreign rights enquiries please contact: Aleksandra Erakovic, aerakovic@kiwi-verlag.de, Tel. +49 (0) 221- 37685-56 


Hanno Sauer : Moral. Die Erfindung von Gut und Böse (Morality. The Invention of Good and Evil) (Piper) 

Click here for a sample translation by Marshall Yarbrough

To understand how our morality determines our identity, we have to understand its history: Hanno Sauer recounts the history of our morality, from the evolution of human cooperation five million years ago to the recent crises of moral polarisation. 

The jury said:’ People are relying increasingly on morality to justify their positions in current social debates. But what is this human “morality” anyway, how did it emerge as a successful concept in human history, what is its universal core and how does it manifest differently from one culture to another? Sauer’s comprehensive cultural history of morality from the dawn of humanity to the present provides a solid basis for the highly topical moral debates of our time – intelligently written and entertaining, it invites us to question our own convictions.’

For foreign rights enquiries please contact: Ms Elisabeth Wiedemann, Piper Verlag GmbH, Georgenstraße 4, 80799 Munich, Germany

elisabeth.wiedemann@piper.de
Tel. +49 (0)89 38 18 01-735
www.piper.de 


Martin Schulze Wessel: Der Fluch des Imperiums. Die Ukraine, Polen und der Irrweg in der russischen Geschichte (The Curse of the Empire. Ukraine, Poland and the Misguided Path in Russian History) (C.H.Beck) 

Click here for a sample translation

Before 24 February 2022, Putin’s regime seemed to many primarily interested in maintaining its own power and personal enrichment. But that does not really explain Russia’s renewed attack on Ukraine, the brutality of the warfare or the hate propaganda. Martin Schulze Wessel places the war in the context of Russia’s expansion into Eastern Europe and shows how the country’s imperial past continues to impact the present. 

The jury said: ‘The principles of freedom, democracy and national self-determination are under attack in Ukraine today. This may sound melodramatic, but the historian of Eastern Europe Martin Schulze Wessel justifies this position masterfully with a history of the Russia Empire. Eruditely retracing the history of Russia, Poland and Ukraine since Peter the Great, he describes how Moscow’s imperial policy towards its neighbours was accompanied by an anti-Western attitude that persists to this day. An oppressive history lesson, his book opens our eyes to the mindset of Putin and his regime and its contempt for a diverse Western civil society.’

For foreign rights enquiries please contact: Susanne Simor at Susanne.simor@beck.de, Tel. +49 89 38189-228 


Elisabeth Wellershaus: Wo die Fremde beginnt. Über Identität in der fragilen Gegenwart (Where Foreignness Begins. On Identity in the Fragile Present) (C.H.Beck) 

Click here for a sample translation

Elisabeth Wellershaus has been familiar with the phenomenon of foreignness since she was a small child due to the attributes others ascribed to her. In her book, she traces how much more complex, omnipresent and enriching her own view of foreignness is – and why it connects us. 

The jury said: ‘

Nothing about the circumstances of Elisabeth Wellershaus’s childhood was clear cut. She grew up in an affluent neighbourhood in Hamburg, the daughter of a black father and white mother. Decades later, the author now reports on foreignness in Germany and on a future that cannot have fixed identity attributions if it is to be productive. The book is an attempt to move beyond the debates about racism and identity politics without ignoring them. The author’s subjective narrative employs calm, sensitive language to observe and describe with great precision. She does not find certainty in community and collectivism – only grey areas and the realisation that we can be at home in the in-between.’

For foreign rights enquiries please contact: Susanne Simor at Susanne.simor@beck.de, Tel. +49 89 38189-228 


About the Prize

The German Non-Fiction Prize is presented to the non-fiction book of the year as an annual award of the Stiftung Buchkultur und Leseförderung (Foundation for Book Culture and the Promotion of Reading) to honour outstanding non-fiction books in German-language original edition that inspire social debate.

The prize aims to promote awareness of non-fiction as a basis for transmitting knowledge, developing informed opinions and encouraging public discourse.

Criteria for the award are: a relevant subject, the narrative quality of the text, the presentation of the topic, the clarity of the language and accessibility of the material and the quality of the research. The prize is worth a total of 42,500 euros.

The Deutsche Bank Stiftung (Deutsche Bank Foundation) is the main supporter of the prize, which is also supported by the city of Hamburg and the ZEIT-Stiftung (ZEIT Foundation).


Interview with Necati Öziri

The German Book Prize shortlisted author speaks to Sheridan Marshall about his novel Vatermal, writing for the stage and working as a dramaturge, and the political aspects of his writing.

read article…