Swiss writer beats odds to win German Book Prize

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BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Swiss writer Melinda Nadj Abonji, who was born in Serbia, has won the 2010 German Book Prize for her novel “Tauben fliegen auf” (“Falcons Without Falconers”).

The novel tells the story of a Hungarian family in Serbia who leave to make a new life for themselves in Switzerland. Written from the perspective of daughter Ildiko, it narrates the family’s attempts to integrate themselves into Swiss society.

As Ildiko grows up, she gradually becomes aware of the huge differences between the cultures to which she belongs and in which she lives.

“What begins as an apparently carefree Balkan comedy is soon overshadowed by the hand of history and the looming Yugoslavian wars,” the jury said, explaining its decision.

The book “presents a deeper picture of a contemporary Europe at a time of new departures, but by no means yet able to break with its past,” it added.

Abonji’s novel was chosen against the odds from 148 titles -- German writer Peter Wawerzinek had been the favorite for his book “Rabenliebe” (Motherless Child).

The German Book Prize, worth 25,000 euros ($34,450), is awarded annually for the best German-language novel. It was introduced in 2005 to draw a wider audience to German fiction.

Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Steve Addison