The wonderful Dublin Literary Award 2023 has announced their winner and I am pleased to learn it is one I have not only read, but it was one of my Top Fiction Reads of 2022.
The Dublin Literary Award is unique in that it’s books are nominated by libraries from cities around the world. This year 84 libraries from 31 countries across Africa, Europe, Asia, the US, Canada, South America, Australia, and New Zealand made their nominations, the judges selected a shortlist of six novels and tonight they have awarded the prize to
Marzahn, Mon Amour by Katja Oskamp, translated by Jo Heinrich (read my review here) :
The 2023 Judging Panel, led by Professor Chris Morash of Trinity College Dublin, including Gabriel Gbadamosi, Marie Hermet, Sarah Moss, Arunava Sinha and Doireann Ní Ghríofa (author of my One Outstanding Read of 2020), commented:
“Every so often, you come across a novel whose simple, direct honesty knocks you sideways. There is an unaffected humility and generosity about Katja Oskamp’s Marzhan, Mon Amour that speaks to the value of community and to the dignity of ordinary lives. ‘The love I have inside me has turned to liquid,’ concludes the novel’s narrator, ‘and now runs into the most unlikely places’. To read Marzhan, Mon Amour in Jo Heinrich’s translation from the German is to feel Katja Oskamp’s all-encompassing embrace of her world.”
Marzhan Mon Amour is a memoir-ish novel, collective history and a character study of a group of people living in and around a multi-storied communist-era plattenbau prefab apartment building in the working class quarter of Marzahn, East Berlin, told through the eyes and ears of a woman facing her middle years.
“The middle years, when you’re neither young nor old, are fuzzy years. You can no longer see the shore you started from, but you can’t yet get a clear enough view of the shore you’re heading for. You spend these years thrashing about in the middle of a big lake, out of breath, flagging from the tedium of swimming. You pause, at a loss, and turn around in circles, again and again. Fear sets in, the fear of sinking halfway, without a sound, without a cause.”
The narrator is a 45 year old woman (referred to in some articles as the author herself), whose partner is ill, requiring her to abandon her career as a writer and take up something else. She retrains as a chiropodist and joins Tiffy who offers beauty treatments and massage and Flocke who does nails, in a salon at the foot of an eighteen storey building.
If the opening paragraph quoted above, sounds melancholy, know that it represents a turning point.
Marzahn, Mon Amour is a tender reflection on life’s progression and our ability to forge connections in the unlikeliest of places under the the most unassuming circumstances.
I highly recommend you read it! A wonderful, life-affirming, inspirational read.