Swiss Literature Awards

presented by the Federal Office of Culture FOC

Every year, the Federal Office of Culture awards the Swiss Grand Award for Literature as well as five to seven Swiss Literature Awards. The latter are awarded for literary works that have been published in the previous year, in one of the national languages or in a Swiss dialect. The Swiss Grand Prix for Literature honours a personality who stands out through their exceptional dedication to Swiss literature.

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Sample translations of the 2024 laureates’ texts can be provided upon request.

Vous, les ancêtres

Author Bessora
Genre Novel
Publisher JC Lattès, Paris
ISBN 9782709670692
Translation rights

Judith Keller
Wilde Manöver

Author Judith Keller
Genre Novel
Publisher Luchterhand Literaturverlag, Munich
ISBN 978-3-630-87743-3
Translation rights Gesche Wendebourg,

Claudia Quadri
Infanzia e bestiario

Author Claudia Quadri
Genre Novel
Publisher Edizioni Casagrande, Bellinzona
ISBN 9788877139870
Translation rights

Ivna Žic
Wahrscheinliche Herkünfte

Author Ivna Žic
Genre Novel
Publisher Matthes & Seitz Berlin
ISBN 978-3-7518-0917-7
Translation rights Maren Mentzel,

Jérémie Gindre

Author Jérémie Gindre
Genre Novel
Publisher Éditions ZOE, Chêne-Bourg
ISBN 978-2-88907-280-4
Translation rights

Dominic Oppliger

Author Dominic Oppliger
Genre Novel
Publisher Der Gesunde Menschenversand, Lucerne
ISBN 978-3-03853-133-3
Translation rights

Ed Wige
Milch Lait Latte Mleko

Author Ed Wige
Genre Novel
Publisher Pulette Editrice, Plan-les-Ouates
ISBN 9782709670692
Translation rights

Swiss Grand Prix for Literature

Klaus Merz was born in 1945 and grew up in Menziken (canton of Aargau). He is a trained secondary school teacher and worked at a professional education institution as a lecturer in language and culture. Klaus Merz has been a freelance writer for many years and lives in Unterkulm, Aargau. His poems, novels and stories have been translated into various languages and have been awarded the Hermann Hesse Literature Prize in 1997, the Gottfried Keller Prize in 2004, the Basel Poetry Prize and the Friedrich Hölderlin Prize (both 2012), and, most recently, the Rainer Malkowski Prize (2016) and the Christine Lavant Prize (2018), to name but a few.

Introspection and linguistic condensation characterise Klaus Merz’s work. The Aargau author has a rather soft, but all the more urgent and weighty voice that echoes far beyond the Swiss borders. Since his first volume of poetry, Mit gesammelter Blindheit (1967) over 50 years ago, he has accumulated a very diverse oeuvre, including poetry, prose – stories, novellas, short novels and essays – theatre plays, radio plays and children’s books. Around 30 books are gathered into one edition, with the repertoire continuing to grow. In careful searching movements he extends his feelers in ever new directions – for example, into the inner workings of a Mediterranean company (Firma, 2019) and following the light trails of memory (Noch Licht im Haus, 2023).

Klaus Merz’s literature is regionally anchored in a cosmopolitan sense. The author was born and raised in Wynental in Aargau and still lives there today. But his characters fan out: emigrants, dropouts and returnees populate his texts, like the grandfather in the novella Der Argentinier (2009), who returns and builds his own ‘new’ world as a village teacher. The global nature of his work is also reflected in the large number of translations into French, Italian, English, Spanish, Russian and even Persian.

Watch! – the postulate that has guided Klaus Merz’s literary research for many years. It involves an inward and outward groping movement and, at the same time, a patient waiting until images imprint themselves on the retina and become stored as memories. In this sense, all of his texts – and not only his many poems and essays that deal with visual art and photography (Das Gedächtnis der Bilder, 2014) – are ‘viewing pieces’. The poems are created slowly, some over years, and any word that is not completely necessary is taken out – a process of gradual reduction in which, in the end, not writing ends up being ‘an act of writing in itself’. Klaus Merz’s credo, ‘texts must be well cured’, means he takes his time, allowing experiences to sink in until they slowly transform into literature, so that only the essence remains. For example, his masterpiece, the short novel Jakob schläft (1997), for which Klaus Merz gained international attention, tells a family’s story of illness, disability and death, while also praising life and the connection between people. Although illness and death are leitmotifs in his work, they are interwoven with a bright cheerfulness and hovering depth and always strive to bring out the ‘latent material’ beneath the surface of everyday life. His poem, Königswege, demonstrates his poetic range: ‘Upstream / the salmon / return / to their spawning grounds. // In the stream of language / the poem builds / a staircase / for the word.’ (Trans.: ‘Fluss aufwärts / kehren die Lachse / zu ihren Laich- / plätzen zurück.// Im Strom der Sprache / baut das Gedicht / eine Treppe / dem Wort’.)