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Lukas Bärfuss Acerbic Swiss author awarded top German prize

Lukas Bärfuss sitting in a tram

Bärfuss is only the fourth German-language author from Switzerland to win the prestigious Büchner award in Germany. 

(© Keystone/Gaetan Bally)

Swiss author Lukas Bärfuss has won this year’s Georg Büchner Prize – arguably the most prestigious German-language literary award.

The Germany-based institution announced on Tuesday that the novels and plays of Bärfuss explored the “continually changing existential situations of modern life with high stylistic competence and a wide range of variety and diversity”.

Among his novels are Koala, which explores the suicide of his brother, Hundert Tage (One Hundred Days), about the Rwandan genocide and the involvement of Swiss development aid in the tragedy, and Hagard, his most recent novel about a successful businessman who decides on a whim to break off all social contacts.

Bärfuss started his literary career in the late 1990s with a series of plays, many of which were translated into other languages.

He has also made a name for himself with political essays and controversial public statements. See also story below.

Bärfuss is only the fourth German-language Swiss author in the 70-year history of the prize to be honoured with the €50,000 (CHF55,700) award, after Max Frisch, Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Adolf Muschg.

Two of the leading Swiss newspapers, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and the Tages-Anzeiger group, paid tribute to Bärfuss in their Wednesday editions. The 47-year old laureate himself described the prize as an “angel’s kiss”.

He has previously won several literary awards in Switzerland and neighbouring Germany.

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