Young author beats out favourites to win Swiss Book Prize

Anna Stern, 30, is originally from Canton St Gallen in northeastern Switzerland. Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Anna Stern has been awarded the 2020 Swiss Book Prize for her novel about coming to terms with the death of a close friend.

This content was published on November 9, 2020 - 10:22

The book, “das alles hier, jetzt” (“all that here, now”), was announced as winner at a ceremony in Basel on Sunday.

The jury said Stern had managed to take one of the oldest themes in literature and infuse it with “a fully new form and unprecedented tone”.

The book is written from the perspective of a narrator in their mid-20s who is trying to come to terms with a friend’s death. Much of it is written in a dual format: on the left-hand page the narrator describes the grieving process, on the right-hand page he or she recounts old scenes from their friendship. It’s all written in a way that leaves it unclear whether the characters are male or female – something which is “up to the reader to decide”, as Stern told the Keystone-SDA news agency.

Stern, who is 30 and is currently writing a doctoral dissertation on antibiotic resistance at the federal technology institute ETH Zurich, had previously published three books – two novels and a collection of stories.

She was chosen for the prize on Sunday ahead of long-established authors, including Charles Lewinsky, Dorothee Elmiger, Tom Kummer, and Karl Rühmann.

The Swiss Book Prize is considered the most important literary award in Switzerland alongside the Grand Prix for literature. It comes with a cheque for CHF30,000 ($33,340).

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