When the German Academy for Language and Poetry awarded its €50,000 Georg Büchner Prize to the Austrian writer Clemens J. Setz a year ago, it was late but impressive confirmation of a resolution that President Ernst Osterkamp committed to had committed to taking office in 2017: to make the academy younger.

Not only that Setz was only 38 at the time (and thus one of the youngest recipients of this not only the most valuable but also the most important German-language literary prize), he also has a young audience.

That can be said of very few Academy members.

Andrew Plathaus

Responsible editor for literature and literary life.

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With this year’s award to Emine Sevgi Özdamar, another resolution of Osterkamp’s has come into play, again and again: to make the academy more female (there was no talk of diversity in the gender-multiple sense in 2017, but that will surely come soon).

Since 2017, the Darmstadt institution has been staging a balanced interplay of the sexes: Jan Wagner, Terézia Mora, Lukas Bärfuss, Elke Erb, Clemens J. Setz and now Emine Sevgi Özdamar.

One may miss the surprise when half of the possible candidates are eliminated every year due to such (of course officially unexplained) quotas, but the Büchner Prize is not one that wants to surprise.

But confirm.

And of course make the academy itself attractive, especially in times of crisis,

With Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Setz is not a young author (she was born in 1946), but has a similar temperament.

Both are determined writers in the sense that they don't let their idiosyncrasies fool them.

Özdamar's opus magnum, the autobiographical novel "A Space Delimited by Shadows", which was published last year, is uncomfortable in the radical subjectivity with which it tells about Turkey, Berlin and above all Paris in the seventies and eighties, because he knows neither linguistic nor thematic consideration.

But it is precisely in this that he perfectly depicts that time and its theatrical practice, around which a lot revolves.

Ozdamar was born in Turkey, she has lived in Berlin since 1975, where she succeeded in the theater, both as an author and as a set designer, and she spent formative years in these functions in Paris.

The German language made her hers, and she was thus a forerunner of all those young authors of our time whose migrant background has expanded German-language literature with realities of life that the general public does not know.

And a language that is enriched by the knowledge of other idioms - and the accuracy of authors who do not write in their mother tongue.

For a long time, the Büchner Prize was regarded purely as a lifetime achievement award and threatened to lose touch with current literature.

This danger now appears to have been averted.

And even if Emine Sevgi Özdamar is already in her seventies, she is currently at the peak of her creativity.

There have already been a number of other honors for “A Room Surrounded by Shadows”: the Roswitha Prize, the Bavarian Book Prize, the Düsseldorf Literature Prize, and the Schiller Prize from the city of Mannheim.

With the Büchner Prize, the Academy once again confirms this, but in its justification it also emphasizes the continuity of this most recent novel.

The decision in favor of Emine Sevgi Özdamar is a logical consequence of the institution's self-image.

But also from the point of view of a quite large audience,

Anyone who has heard Özdamar speak knows that her acceptance speech is something to be prepared for.

She makes no political or aesthetic compromises.

The award ceremony will take place on November 5 this year, as usual in the large hall of the Darmstadt State Theater.