"A strong sign against anti-Semitism"

Hans Joachim Schädlich honoured with Erich Loest Prize 2019

Leipzig, February 24, 2019. Today, Sunday, 24 February 2019, Hans Joachim Schädlich was awarded the Erich Loest Prize 2019. The prize, created by the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation in memory of the Leipzig writer and honorary citizen Erich Loest, who died in 2013, is endowed with 10,000 euros and will be awarded for the second time on his birthday. Dr. Harald Langenfeld, Chairman of the Media Foundation and Sparkasse Leipzig, paid tribute to the award winner: "Despite all the reprisals he had to endure, Hans Joachim Schädlich always took a stand against the presumption of power in his works, in his confrontations with historical figures and subjects." Statements such as that of the laureate are necessary: "Xenophobia, expulsion and flight are issues that Europe must also deal with today. That is why we need even more strong voices that uncover grievances, that courageously stand up for freedom, for openness to the world, for democracy, for humanity. That fight for it - also in speech and writing."

Prizewinner Hans Joachim Schädlich expressed his gratitude for the award, which he received above all in recognition of his novel Felix und Felka. He said he had tried to portray the last years of Felix Nussbaum's and Felka Platek's life with literary means; his novel was "an attempt to bring the two to life for me - and perhaps for others”. Schädlich added: "The jury intended to honour my book Felix und Felka with their decision. I understand the jury’s decision as a strong sign against anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish agitation." He said he observed how anti-Semitism is growing among the German population 70 years after the Holocaust and how xenophobia is spreading. The fear of the stranger may have archaic causes, Schädlich said: "The fact that the primeval reflex is still present in modern societies can be observed in the mistrust and hostility of many people towards what is foreign to them". Following the example of Max Mannheimer, he reminded the younger generations of their responsibility to ensure that a genocide such as that of the European Jews will not be repeated.

Previously, Tilman Spreckelsen, editor in the literature section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, had paid tribute to Hans Joachim Schädlich in his laudatory speech: He proves to be "a virtuoso of poetic movement, one who traces an imperceptible transformation with a light hand and an ever-finer brush". In Felix und Felka, the form he chose among all the aesthetic possibilities, "is characterized by linguistic scarcity, also by the renunciation of the appearance of all too great empathy. [...] He is not aiming at a description as naturalist as possible, and he is certainly not interested in a representation that bridges the distance between that time and ours". It is precisely "through cleverly placed blanks" that the reader's imagination "grows a sense of the growing shadow that lies above these existences".

The jury, chaired by Hartwig Hochstein, former editor-in-chief of the Leipziger Volkszeitung, had justified its decision in favour of Hans Joachim Schädlich as follows: "Schädlich, as in earlier books, does not prejudge particular opinions, but rather encourages people to think for themselves. Sapere aude, dare to think for yourself - this Kantian philosophical leitmotif is also his literary agenda." Professor Josef Haslinger, Director of the German Literature Institute at Leipzig University and member of the jury, praised him at the award ceremony: "Schädlich has always been a language artist. For him, being a studied linguist, language will always remain a structure to be worked upon." Schädlich increasingly reduces his language, his voice thus gains more and more authenticity, he added.

About the laureate:

Hans Joachim Schädlich was born in 1935 as the son of a merchant in Reichenbach, Vogtland, where he initially attended elementary school. From 1954 to 1959 he studied German and Linguistics at the Humboldt University in Berlin and at the University of Leipzig, where he received his doctorate in 1960 with a thesis on the phonology of the dialect in the Eastern Vogtland area. Schädlich then worked as a research assistant at the Academy of Sciences of the GDR in Berlin until he was removed from his post because of his protest against Wolf Biermann's expatriation. In 1977 his application to leave the GDR for West Germany was granted, and he has been living in West Berlin since 1979. At the end of the 1960s, Schädlich published his first literary texts, which could not, however, be published in the GDR. In 1986, Schädlich published his first novel, Tallhover, with which he established himself in the German literary scene. Numerous novels, volumes of short stories, essays and articles followed, most recently Felix und Felka.

About the prize:

The prize is endowed with 10,000 euros and is offered by the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation every two years in memory of the writer Erich Loest. Erich Loest had a close association with the Sparkasse Foundations throughout his life - as a founding member of the Media Foundation and as a patron of the Culture and Environment Foundation, to which he left his literary estate. The award honors authors who not only describe the social and political conditions in Germany, but whose opinions also help to shape the democratic discourse. Laureates should also have connections with the Central German area. First prizewinner in 2017 was Guntram Vesper.

2019 - Erich Loest Prize