Author Jörg Steiner died Sunday in his home town of Biel at the age of 82. Over five decades Steiner produced some 30 novels, poems and picture books and was awarded more than a dozen literature prizes.
Steiner, the son of a civil engineer, was born on October 26, 1930, in Biel. During his life he traveled extensively in Europe, America and Africa. Early on, after breaking off training as a pharmacist, he became a teacher. In 1953 he took on a position as a teacher in a reform school in Aarwangen, in canton Bern.
The school inspired three of his novels, which were set in a reform school called Brandmoos and dealt with difficult themes like escape, imprisonment, isolation, and disability.
In 1954 Steiner founded a small press, the “Vorstadtpresse”, which he headed until 1960. He also worked as a teacher in the town of Nidau, served as litertaure editor for the newspaper Bieler Tagblatt, and from 1973 to 1979 was a member of the Biel legislature.
Steiner was a celebrated writer. In 1976 he received the literature prize of canton Bern, in 1982 the Gustav Heinemann Preis (Germany), in 1994 the Erich Fried Prize (Austria), in 1998 the Berlin Literature Prize, and in 2002 the Max Frisch Prize awarded by the city of Zurich, which included a cash sum of SFr50,000 ($53,622).
Steiner’s most successful books were the picture books he produced with illustrator Jörg Müller, among them “Der Eisblumenwald”, published in 1983, and “Aufstand der Tiere oder die neuen Stadtmusikanten”, published in 1989. In 2005 the two men were nominated for the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s richest award for children’s and young adult literature.
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