Winners of the Berlin Literature Prize receive 30,000 euros. The award goes to writers whose literary works have made a substantial contribution to the development of German contemporary literature in the areas of lyric poetry, narrative prose, or drama. Since 2005 the Berlin Literature Prize has been connected with the Heiner Müller Visiting Professorship for German Literature at the Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature at Freie Universität Berlin. Each year during the spring/summer semester, the award winner supervises a literary workshop for young authors who are students at the universities in Berlin or Brandenburg.
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, Hans Joachim Schädlich, and Olga Martynova.
The selection committee for the 2016 Berlin Literature Award consists of Peter-André Alt, Sonja Anders, Jens Bisky, Ina Hartwig, and Thomas Wohlfahrt.
The justification for the 2016 award stated: “The writer Feridun Zaimoglu was selected as winner of the 2016 Berlin Literature Award because of his powerful narrative language and dramatic work. Zaimoglu was born in 1964 in Bolu, Turkey, and has been living in Germany for the past 50 years. In his first book, Kanak Sprak (1995), Zaimoglu utilized and invented a language for "discords from the margins of society." Marginalized individuals are the central figures in his works. The experiences of immigrants and migrants are described from various perspectives (Leyla, 2006). Zaimoglu wrote a dozen plays and translated Shakespeare's most famous dramas into a dramatically contemporary language. He has a command over the entire repertoire of German literature. His narrations are simultaneously vivid and burlesque, original and allusive, plastic and unromantic. His most recent novel, an East-West family saga Siebentürmeviertel (Seven Towers Neighborhood) (2015), embeds the history of German emigrants of the 1930s in a social panorama of early Turkey, oscillating between pathos and irony, pain and beauty.”
The Berlin Literature Prize will be awarded on February 17, 2016, by the Governing Mayor of Berlin and Chair of the Council of the Preußische Seehandlung Foundation, Michael Müller. The president of Freie Universität, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt, will officially appoint Zaimoglu as the Heiner Müller Visiting Professor of German Literature. The laudatory speech will be given by the publicist and journalist, Jens Jessen.