Jenny Erpenbeck and Michael Hofmann win 2024 International Booker Prize

Jenny Erpenbeck and Michael Hofmann have clinched the 2024 International Booker Prize for Erpenbeck’s poignant novel Kairos, translated by Hofmann, per This momentous win marks Erpenbeck as the first German author and Hofmann as the first male translator to receive the prestigious award. 

The duo will share the £50,000 prize.

Kairos, set against the backdrop of East Germany’s collapse, explores a complex love affair intertwined with national upheaval. 

Judging chair Eleanor Wachtel praised the novel as a “richly textured evocation of a tormented love affair, the entanglement of personal and national transformations.” Hofmann’s translation was lauded for its fidelity to Erpenbeck’s distinctive prose, capturing the “eloquence and eccentricities” of her writing.

The judging panel, consisting of Wachtel, poet Natalie Diaz, novelist Romesh Gunesekera, visual artist William Kentridge, and writer-translator Aaron Robertson, reached their decision swiftly and unanimously. “This was the book that everyone turned to when it came to the crunch,” Wachtel noted, highlighting the judges’ consensus.

Erpenbeck, celebrated for her previous works The End of Days and Go, Went, Gone, has garnered significant acclaim in the literary world. 

Hofmann, an established translator and previous Independent Foreign Fiction Prize winner, has further solidified his reputation with this win.

Reviewer Natasha Walter of The Guardian described Kairos as “one of the bleakest and most beautiful novels,” noting its intense and unyielding style, masterfully conveyed in Hofmann’s translation. The novel’s present-tense narrative, a hallmark of Erpenbeck’s style, enhances its claustrophobic intensity.

The shortlist for this year’s prize included notable works such as Not a River by Selva Almada, The Details by Ia Genberg, Mater 2-10 by Hwang Sok-yong, What I’d Rather Not Think About by Jente Posthuma, and Crooked Plow by Itamar Vieira Junior. 

Previous winners of the International Booker Prize include renowned authors and translators like Han Kang and Deborah Smith, Olga Tokarczuk and Jennifer Croft, and Georgi Gospodinov and Angela Rodel. 

Kairos is published by Granta and is available for purchase.

•Featured image: Jenny Erpenbeck and Michael Hofmann/The Guardian

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