16 September 2009

Hans Magnus Enzensberger receives 2010 Sonning Prize

German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger is the recipient of the 2010 Sonning Prize, Denmark's most prestigious cultural award.

The award is handed out every other year to a person that has been "found to have done commendable work for the benefit of European culture", and it brings with it a 1 million kroner (€135,000) cash prize.

European engagement

As an author and intellectual, Hans Magnus Enzensberger has long left his mark in the fields of literature, essay writing and journalism. The debate about Europe is still a recurring theme for him, and in the prize recommendation the significance of his European involvement is specifically underscored:

"For him, Europe is neither a single unit nor a series of isolated units. In his 'Oh, Europe' ('Ach Europa') he describes and dissects the cultures and customs of a number of European countries. The common thread proved to be their single-mindedness. Europe can therefore not be gathered together into a single state without damaging its soul, but can only live up to itself by not simply being gathered in all its diversity but around that diversity, and let that diversity come to expression in the necessary and practical cooperation."

An intellectual role model

Enzensberger's writing smacks of irony, including self-irony. This irony gives way to the moral issue. It is not just a protective measure against premature embracing - it addresses the case by turning society's criticism on its ear and, in doing so, leaves room for doubt. As an intellectual model, Hans Magnus Enzensberger is described in the nomination as:

"A poet and an intellectual who with humour, irony and hidden warmth dares to say 'no' and yet 'yes' in his own way, and in that way it seems - appropriate."

The 79-year-old Hans Magnus Enzensberger is one of German literature's most acclaimed contemporary writers and analysts. Since debuting with his first poetry collection in 1957, he has published more than 50 works that include an impressive range from poems, novels and plays to scientific works. He was part of the authors' union Group 47 and has promoted the literary debate in both Germany and the rest of Europe.

The award will be presented on 2 February in the Ceremonial Hall at the University of Copenhagen.