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Durs Grünbein is the author of six previous volumes of poetry and a collection of essays. His work has been awarded many major German literary prizes, including the highest, the Georg-Büchner-Preis, which he won at age 33. Grünbein’s collections of poetry include Grauzone morgens and Schädelbasislektion. In 1995, he received the Peter Huchel Prize for Poetry. He has also published several essay collections and new translations of plays from antiquity, among them Aeschylus’ The Persians, and Seneca’s Thyestes. His work, which also includes contributions to catalogues and a libretto for opera, has been translated into many languages. He has lived in Berlin since 1985.

Ashes for Breakfast

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
2006 Shortlist
United States

Judges’ Citation

Born in Dresden, a ‘deathtrap for angels’, Durs Grünbein is the most significant poet to have emerged from the old East.

Born in Dresden, a ‘deathtrap for angels’, Durs Grünbein is the most significant poet to have emerged from the old East. His poems have a remarkable quality of contemplation, which enables them to shrug off pathos and irony, and so to reveal their personal and political depths. Unromantic, contained, but always moving and moved, he is ever alert to history’s ‘sudden nearness’ and brings it to us as mirror, window and trapdoor. Michael Hofmann’s translations are live-action engagements of one poet with another – of languages reacting, competing, consoling and teasing – and propose new answers to old questions about whether poetry can travel this well or at all.