"Observer and witness of his generation"

Media Foundation's first "Erich Loest Prize" goes to Guntram Vesper

Leipzig, 24 January, 2017. Guntram Vesper is the first winner of the "Erich Loest Prize", offered by the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation in memory of the writer Erich Loest from Leipzig who died in 2013. The prize is endowed with 10,000 euros. The award ceremony will be held on 24 February, Loest's birthday, at the Media Foundation's Media Campus "Villa Ida". Andreas Platthaus, editor of the literature and literary life supplement of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, will give the laudatory speech.

The prize jury justified its decision thus: "On his time travels spanning a thousand pages, Guntram Vesper connects the microcosm of his family to the great historic events, the small village of Frohburg to the sites of social and political change. Depicting the fate of individuals during the Nazi era or the GDR, he reveals the mendaciousness of dictatorial regimes - without exposing, without sugarcoating and without condemnation. A rich and densely woven human tapestry, and thus also a highly political one - totally in line with Erich Loest."

"Born in the Third Reich, raised in the GDR and living in the Federal Republic, Guntram Vesper is an observer and witness of his generation," explains Dr. Harald Langenfeld, Chairman of Sparkasse Leipzig and the Media Foundation. "With his novel Frohburg he creates a literary monument to his hometown and takes the reader with him on a journey through East-West German history. Starting from the present, he describes the lessons learned and the experiences of the 20th century. This is a book against oblivion. A tremendously vivid plea for a culture of remembrance. Guntram Vesper is a worthy laureate for Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation's first 'Erich Loest Prize'," Dr. Langenfeld added.

"More than 1000 pages for a whole life! With his autobiographical novel Frohburg, Guntram Vesper gives us a Saxon history of customs of the last 70 years. His work is a powerful mosaic of memories and reflexions, of events and circumstances," commented Burkhard Jung, Lord Mayor of Leipzig and Chairman of the organisation's Foundation Council. "He shows us that reading and living can complement each other perfectly. No one could be more worthy of the first 'Erich Loest Prize' than Guntram Vesper, the passionate defender of book culture. The essence of Erich Loest's passion was exactly that: to come to terms with life through writing. I wholeheartedly congratulate Guntram Vesper on being selected for this award," Jung added.

"Erich Loest, the important author of East-West German history, had a close association with the Sparkasse Foundations throughout his life. As a founding member, his presence made a substantial contribution to the nascent Media Foundation. Sometimes cheerfully mocking, sometimes gruff and grim, but always kind, he observed the events at the Media Campus 'Villa Ida'. Here is where he celebrated several birthday parties and where he brought his literary estate - what would be more apt than for the Foundation to remember its great friend and supporter with an award", explains Stephan Seeger, Director of the Sparkasse Leipzig Foundations.

Guntram Vesper was born in 1941 in Frohburg, East Germany, and has lived in western Germany since 1957. In 1967 he read from his works at the last meeting of "Gruppe 47". His oeuvre is characterised by his early volumes of poems and, later on, especially by a variety of novels, as well as essays and radio plays. Guntram Vesper has received numerous awards for his work, such as the "Peter Huchel Prize" in 1985 and the honorary award of the "Deutsche Schillerstiftung" (German Schiller Foundation) in 2006. He received the "Leipzig Book Fair Prize" in 2016 for his novel Frohburg, which takes a closer look at his Saxon hometown in times of dictatorship.

In addition to the writer and journalist Linde Rotta, Erich Loest's partner for many years, the jury for 2016/17 included eleven renowned literary critics, authors, literary scholars and journalists. Each member of the jury could first nominate a candidate for the "Erich Loest Prize" before one laureate was selected from these suggestions.

About the award:
The award is endowed with 10,000 euros and is offered by the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation 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 honours 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. The award will be given every two years.

2017 - Erich Loest Prize