German Book Prize 2021 for Heinrich Heine guest lecturer Antje Rávik Strubel

2021-10-22 Antje Rávik Strubel was a Heinrich Heine guest lecturer at Leuphana in 2017. She has now been awarded the German Book Prize 2021 for her novel "Blaue Frau".

Publizist Wend Kässens und Antje Rávik Strubel ©Antje Rávic Strubel © t&w
Author Antje Rávik Strubel (right) during her Heinrich Heine Guest Lecture at a reading in the Lüneburg Literature Office, moderated by publicist Wend Kässens (left).

"For me, language is a place of intoxication and delight, but also a place of irritation and risk," said Antje Rávik Strubel in her acceptance speech at the award ceremony on 18 October in Frankfurt. However, language is too often marked by a "war for naming and designation", namely about "who we are allowed to be and who has the say about it", and is waged with a hatred that is alienating and threatening in equal measure - but at the same time also "terribly normal". For years, the author has therefore been writing stories about people who resist what is taken for granted as a matter of course - who point out the loopholes in this normality and use them rather than simply accepting them.

The novel "Blue Woman" tells of the speechlessness of a young woman named Adina. After a traumatic experience, the young Czech woman tries to take possession of her language again. "With existential force and poetic precision, Antje Rávik Strubel describes a young woman's refuge from her memory of a rape. Layer by layer, the stirring novel exposes what happened. The story of female self-empowerment expands into a reflection on rival cultures of memory in Eastern and Western Europe and power imbalances between the sexes," the jury said, explaining its decision. "In the dialogue with the mythical figure of the Blue Woman, the narrator condenses her intervening poetics: literature as a fragile counter-power that opposes injustice and violence despite all despair."

Antje Rávik Strubel has been writing "Blaue Frau" for eight years. Before that, the episodic novel "In den Wäldern des menschlichen Herzens" (In the Forests of the Human Heart) was published in 2016, which she also presented during her guest lectureship at Leuphana in 2017. In it, four protagonists meet in the Californian desert, at the Stechlin, in Finnish forests and in the ice wind of Manhattan. Varying between countries and genders, they enter into different relationships in which classic notions of love dissolve.

Antje Rávik Strubel, born in Potsdam in 1974, studied American studies, psychology and literature in Potsdam and at NYU after completing an apprenticeship in the book trade. She debuted in 2001 with the novel "Offene Blende", followed by, among others, "Fremd Gehen. Ein Nachtstück" (2002), "Tupolew 134" (2004), "Vom Dorf. Adventure Stories for the Feast" (2007) and the episodic novel "In den Wäldern des menschlichen Herzens" (2016). In 2017, she held the ninth Heinrich Heine Visiting Lectureship at Leuphana. Her work has been honoured with numerous awards, and her novels have repeatedly been longlisted for the German Book Prize. The novel "Blaue Frau" has now been awarded the German Book Prize 2021 as the best German-language novel.

The Heinrich Heine Guest Lectureship, a cooperation project between the Literaturbüro Lüneburg and Leuphana University Lüneburg (represented by Prof. Dr. Emer O'Sullivan), supports authors from the contemporary German-language literary scene and is awarded annually. The aim is to give students and people interested in literature from Lüneburg direct access to the literature and poetics of an outstanding contemporary author.


  • Prof. Dr. Emer O'Sullivan