The Chamisso Prize – Interview with German publicist and literary critic Dr. Klaus Hübner

Nicole Paredes Ludwig, from Bibielle Global Translations S.L., recently spoke with Dr. Klaus Hübner, secretary of the Adelbert Von Chamisso Prize for literature from the Robert Bosch Foundation.

Dr. Hübner explained the history and current standing of the prize and took questions from the audience at the German Goethe Institute’s event, “How to adopt a language“. The event, held on March 20th 2015 in Barcelona’s centre for contemporary art (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona – CCCB), explored the experiences of foreign authors who live in Germany and write in German. It was presented by author Jordi Soler, who was born in Mexico and lives now in Barcelona. Marjana Gaponenko, who was born in Ukraine and now lives in Austria, also read from her book, “Who is Marta”, which won the Chamisso Prize in 2013.

BBL: Dr. Hübner, could you please tell us about the Chamisso prize?

Dr. Klaus Hübner: The Chamisso Prize recognizes outstanding contributions to German literature written by authors with intercultural backgrounds – those who change languages or cultures and know how to express this in an artistic way. The history of the award since 1985 is a success story. To paraphrase Harald Weinrich, the famous linguist and literature scholar, it started as a thin stream and became a big river.

BBL: Why is the prize named after Adelbert von Chamisso?

Dr. Klaus Hübner: Language change was central to the concept of the award and therefore it seemed appropriate to choose Adelbert von Chamisso, whose mother tongue was French but who then became one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century.

BBL: Why is this literacy prize from the Robert Bosch Foundation so special?

Dr. Klaus Hübner: The winners are supported even after the prize is awarded. Attention is paid to the solidarity between these very different authors and they are always invited together to readings and events.

BBL: Who is eligible for the prize?

Dr. Klaus Hübner: The prize is awarded for extraordinary contributions to contemporary German-language literature by authors who write in German, and whose changes of language and culture have influenced their literature in an artistic way. The Chamisso Prize always includes one or even two Chamisso sponsorship prizes for which you can apply even if your book is not yet published.

BBL: Dr. Hübner, please tell us about yourself. How did you come to become secretary of the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize?

Dr. Klaus Hübner: After having been at the secretary of the DAAD in Bilbao I worked at the Institute for German as Foreign Language in Munich. Afterwards, I took over the editorial office of the magazine, “Special Service German Philology”. I was always interested in the Chamisso prize and actually quite close to receiving it as well. 12 years ago the Robert Bosch Foundation asked me to work as secretary and I happily agreed. The happiness continues!

BBL: Your mother tongue is German – do you also write in languages other than German? Is there a similar prize on international level?

Dr. Klaus Hübner: I need to and have the honor to write so much in German every day that I am not tempted at all to write in different languages. However, there are publications of mine in Spanish. On an international level there are prizes for authors who have changed language and culture but they are not really similar to the Chamisso Prize.

BBL: Writing for the internet and writing for print: does the writer’s style change accordingly? What advice would you give to young writers?

Dr. Klaus Hübner: I write as a publicist for print media as well as for the internet and, of course, it is essential to adapt one’s style accordingly. This is possible to learn, and fulfilling the requirements of each different kind of media has its own special appeal. My advice for young writers is to trust yourself and your angel. Don’t hesitate in front of big names, even if they are as big as Chamisso’s!

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