Gloomy vision of the future – Sibylle Berg wins the Swiss Book Prize 2019 – Culture



In «GRM. Brainfuck »throws Sibylle Berg a gloomy look into the future. For this she receives the Swiss Book Prize.

"GRM. Brainfuck »is a dystopia about life in a total surveillance state. Hard, dark and gripping. Human relationships are characterized by hatred, violence and sex.

There is also the matching soundtrack: Grime, an aggressive form of rap. Today Sybille Berg receives the Swiss Book Prize 2019 for this novel.

Sibylle mountain

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Sibylle Berg, grew up in Weimar in East Germany. She writes novels, essays, short prose and plays. In 2000, she received the Marburger Literaturpreis for "Amerika", and in 2008 the Wolfgang Koeppen Prize.

Her works have been translated into 34 languages, her plays in 26 languages. She is married, lives in Zurich and has Swiss citizenship.

«Sibylle Berg deserves the prize rightly»

SRF literary editor Julian Schutt thinks that Sibylle Berg rightly deserves the book prize. "GRM. Brainfuck "has a completely different social-political urgency and force than the other nominated titles.

SRF: What triggered the decision of the jury?

Julian Schutt: satisfaction. Although Sibylle Berg grew up in eastern Germany, her book at the German Book Prize did not even make it to the longlist.

The German book price jury pressed cowardly in front of this explosive book. Therefore, the more courageous I find the decision to give her now the Swiss Book Prize.

Is Sibylle Berg the logical winner?

Yes, she was in a different league compared to the other nominees. Her book was a Spiegel bestseller and was widely discussed throughout the German-speaking world.

Above all, her novel "GRM" has a very different social and political urgency and force than the other nominated titles.

What is this force?

The jury described Sibylle Berg's book "GRM" rather martially as "mind bomb". In the print media, there has also been talk of an "angry bomb". But that is misleading.

A bomb destroyed. But Sibylle Berg's book just wants to warn against the destruction of our democratic societies. It is rather a call: «Outrage!».

Sibylle Berg fills all the major crises and disasters: neoliberalism, climate change, surveillance state, Brexit, demolition of democracy, macho society. Is that enough as social criticism?

I'm split. The author comes here and there bad hyperventilating. On the other hand, unfortunately all mentioned crises and disasters belong together.

The really explosive thing is that Sibylle Berg can show impressively how these crises and disasters ultimately lead to a new two-class society: on the one hand, the few rich who can afford and allow everything, on the other hand, the mass of the suspended, which one tries to control and shut down.

The jury praises the novel as an avant-garde. Rightly?

The book is next to "GRM" and "Brainfuck", and this name is to be taken quite literally. The teenagers listen to a genre called Grime.

And so rapping the book is also written. Actually, Sibylle Berg has no language. It has a sound that beats all the monstrosities, all the cynics and injustices in your brain.

Has a book "without language" earned the book prize in the first place?

If we take the craftsmanship, originality, or virtuosity of the language alone, all the other nominees would have earned the book prize more.

But fortunately, the language, and what they should express, belong together. And no-one, like Sibylle Berg, has found the perfect tone or sound that fits in perfectly with her fierce social criticism. In that sense, she has earned the price very well.

The interview was conducted by Michael Luisier.

Broadcast: special edition Swiss Book Prize 2019, Radio SRF 2 Kultur, 10.11.2019, 12:00

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