Posted by: artandlove | June 19, 2009

Claudio Magris: Cosmopolitan Intellectual

Claudio Magris

The Italian writer and Germanist Claudio Magris will be awarded with Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels the most important German cultural honour: “Peace Prize of the German Book Trade” as announced during the Buchtage events on June 18-19 in Berlin by the Board of Trustees of Der Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels. The choice has been thus justified:

[Magris] is a rare examiner of the problems associated with how different cultures interact and live together. In numerous works, Magris speaks of the diversity of systems and languages in Central Europe – of their peculiarities and opposites. He brings together narratives, ruminations, fact and fiction in a thoroughly inimitable literary manner. In doing so, Magris shows just how creative these differences can be when they are respected and considered in terms of their very uniqueness. This way of understanding the world has lead him to become an ardent opponent of exclusionary mind-sets and a powerful foe of attitudes of superiority held by one culture over another. Claudio Magris argues in favour of a Europe whose self-understanding is not based purely upon economic criteria. Instead, he supports one that takes full account of – and insists upon – its historical and cultural tradition and diversity. This is the understanding of individual humanism that derives from the cultural tradition of Central Europe, and it embraces what Claudio Magris calls “our ironic feeling for the diverse.”

Claudio Magris (Trieste, 1939) is one of the most reputable essayists and journalists in Europe and a specialist in the study of German, Germanic culture, literature and language. Awarded the Premio Strega (1997) – the most important Italian literary prize for his book Die Welt en gros und en détail. Professor of Modern German Literature at the University of Trieste. He is socially and politically active – senator in the Italian Parliament (1994-1996) – and in 2002, together with Umberto Eco established a movement “Libertà e Giustizia“, criticising the governmental choices of the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He is a columnist for political issues on Corriere Della Sera.
Even though Claudio Magris is considered one of the most important communicators of German-language literature in the Italian-speaking world he is also widely known and appreciated in many other non-German-speaking countries. For instance Spain awarded him with Medalla de Oro del Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid (2003), the Premio Príncipe de Asturias de las Letras in 2004 and La Orden de las Artes y las Letras: the greatest honour bestowed by the Ministerio de Cultura for having contributed to the diffusion of Spanish culture in Europe and abroad:

como reconocimiento a su trayectoria profesional y su contribución a la difusión internacional de nuestra cultura, fomentando su mejor conocimiento y apreciación por los ciudadanos de otros países.

The Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels will be given this next October 18 within the Frankfurt Book Fair in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt, venue of Frankfurt Parliament – the first publicly and freely elected body in Germany – in 1848-1849.
Claudio Magris achievements and success are definitely a true example of the boundless power of culture: without real citizenships and barriers.



  1. I didn’t know anything about Magris, so I looked him up on Wikipedia – to my surprise there is a rather comprehensive article in Swedish about him and quite a few titles translated (into Swedish):
    Danubio, Un altro mare, Microcosmi, Utopia e disincanto and Alla cieca.

    He seems to be interesting – which one do you recommend as a first book?

  2. Thank you for your comment.
    Unquestionably Danube is a marvellous travel diary along a river and throughout human conscience, I deem it absolutely unmissable.
    Utopia is instead a selected harvest of Magris writings (1974-1998) that ranges from literature to history, from social themes to political issues: this may give you a fair spectrum of his versatility and culture.

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