Darmstadt Long breaks are not Clemens J. Setz’s thing. When the Austrian writer talks about his creative impetus, free time is not part of his daily life. “I hardly ever take a break. I do a lot of things at the same time, but some don’t work either,” said the 38-year-old. But some work better.
After numerous awards for his literary work in recent years, the German Academy of Language and Poetry in Darmstadt announced him on Tuesday as the winner of the 2021 Georg Büchner Prize.
Setz is known for his multi-layered texts full of quotes and metaphors, which won him high praise from an early age. “It was my favorite hobby and still is today, writing things down.” He never really saw it as a job. “It’s good luck and a lot of good timing that this has happened now.”
In 2007 his first novel “Sons and Planets” was published and in 2008 he was invited to the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize. In 2011 he received the Leipzig Book Fair prize for his volume of stories “Die Liebe zur Zeit des Mahlstädter Kind”. Sometimes he expects a lot from his readers: his daring novel “The Hour Between Woman and Guitar”, for example, which won him the 2015 Wilhelm Raabe Prize for Literature, is around 1000 pages long.
His stories have received several awards, and now they have received the most important literature award in Germany. “With Clemens J. Setz, the German Academy for Language and Poetry honors a language artist who repeatedly explores human border areas with his novels and stories,” said the jury in support of the explanation of the jury. “Its drastic, sometimes disturbing, sticks to the heart of our present because it follows a deeply humanist impulse.”
An award that Setz considers an honor. At first, he didn’t believe it at all. “I never thought it would happen so early in life.” Maybe at around 70, it was unexpected. “The name Georg Büchner and also the winners of the last few years to be included in this is quite an honor, I still can’t believe it.” Many laureates are his models, without whom he would never have started writing. “It’s very unreal.”
He didn’t start reading books until he was 16, says Setz. “But then falling in love with literature happened very quickly. It was a violent and unambiguous thing.” Setz, who was born in Graz and now lives in Vienna, went on to study German and mathematics. However, it was not the study of literature, but mathematics that inspired him to write. We think inartistically. “You don’t think so freely in an associative way, but in strict forms and that actually made me make up stories a lot more.”
But despite all the success: you doubt yourself all the time, Setz reports of the letter. “Anyone who doesn’t have one is usually a very nasty and very dangerous person.” The 38-year-old pulls his material from memories. Things that you actively remember, that you don’t have to write down. The notebook is the grave of bad ideas. “The things you remember on your own are things you should write about.” His intention: to bridge the gap between people. No one can know what he is thinking and feeling. He wants to overcome this by making complex linguistic utterances in a kind of telepathy and thus perhaps understand what others are thinking.
And Setz has another goal outside of literature. Her marital status: “Still single and no children yet, but I’m working on both and hope I will soon.” (dpa)