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Olga Martynova Recipient of Berlin Literature Prize for 2015

Martynova Accepts Appointment from Freie Universität Berlin as Heiner Müller Visiting Professor of German Literature

№ 333/2014 from Oct 01, 2014

The Preußische Seehandlung Foundation awarded the 2015 Berlin Literature Prize to the writer Olga Martynova. The prize money amounts to 30,000 euros and coincides with an appointment as the Heiner Müller Visiting Professor of German Literature at Freie Universität Berlin during the spring/summer semester of 2015. Each spring/summer semester since 2005, the Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature at Freie Universität Berlin has been inviting a writer to work for a semester with students as the Heiner Müller Visiting Professor of German Literature. The course is a forum for students at universities in Berlin and Brandenburg that enables them to gain experience with professional writers. The previous award winners/visiting professors were Herta Müller, Durs Grünbein, Ilija Trojanow, Ulrich Peltzer, Dea Loher, Sibylle Lewitscharoff, Thomas Lehr, Rainald Goetz, Lukas Bärfuss, and Hans Joachim Schädlich. The selection committee for the 2015 Berlin Literature Prize consisted of Peter-André Alt, Sonja Anders, Jens Bisky, Kristin Schulz, and Thomas Wohlfahrt.

Excerpt from the Justification for the 2015 Award:

"The spiral of history ruins the centers by grinding through the edges (Heiner Müller). The writing of Olga Martynova (born in 1962 near Krasnoyarsk, childhood in Leningrad, since 1991 living in Germany) emerges from this maelstrom of history that constitutes the postsocialist era. With her exuberant imagination and instinctive lightness, she succeeds in her novels Even Parrots Outlive Us (2010) and Mörikes Collarbone (2013), to transpose common themes such as origin or love to a transhistorical universe between St. Petersburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Chicago, and Siberia in which the protagonists submit themselves and find each other. We encounter snow people and shamans, underground poets, kagus, and Philemon and Baucis. All of them poetically resist the function schemes and circumstances of the Cold War, in order to land almost happenstance, for example, in a spy science fiction story. Particularly in her volumes of poetry Letter to the Cypress Trees (2001), In the Draft of Europe (2009), and From Tschwirik to Tschwirka (2012), Martynova reveals her cranky anarchic sense of humor and her refreshingly respectful-disrespectful way of dealing with literary traditions through her agile handling of world history as a changing form of social or mythological shaping and altered justification of layered legacies – e.g., to be fair to the avant-garde artists Daniil Charms or Alexander Wwedensk, who perished under Stalin. Martynova's handling of language is highly sensitive and accurate, due to the fact that she confesses to her searching movements in a language which is not her native tongue – German – and lets them become an instrument for exploring language. From this poetic worldview and appropriation, the past flashes as time that does not pass, whose mysterious magical picture puzzles draw the reader into their spell."

The Berlin Literature Prize will be awarded on February 18, 2015, in the Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall) in Berlin. The president of Freie Universität will officially appoint Martynova as the Heiner Müller Visiting Professor of German Literature. The laudatory speech will be given by Elke Erb.

Further Information

  • Dr. Ute Bredemeyer, Stiftung Preußische Seehandlung, Tel.: +49 30 – 303 087 92
  • Carsten Wette, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 – 838-731 89