The winner of the 2023 Phantastikpreis der Stadt Wetzlar (Fantasy Prize of the City of Wetzlar) is Unten [Below] by Maja Ilisch, published by Dressler Verlag. The prize, awarded since 1983, is worth 4,000 euros.
An eleven-member jury of experts consisting of representatives from the book trade, publishing, library, schools, universities and media selected Maja Ilisch’s novel from 130 submitted titles.
The citation reads:
Below is an exciting story in which a child sets out to look for her best friend, who has disappeared and been replaced by another girl, despite all the rules. The world of the big house seems gloomy, in which Nevo climbs deeper and deeper in her search. The adult world is characterized by rigid conventions and rules issued by an intangible administrative apparatus. But on her way into the depths, which is at the same time a social decline, Nevo always finds people who support her with creative solutions. In the course of the story, the gigantic house proves to be a fantastic condensation of the world. Ilisch succeeds in making what distinguishes texts by Kafka, Orwell or Lewis Carroll tangible for younger readers: the frustration with a world that, due to its rules, eludes common sense. Perhaps it takes a child’s point of view to ask oneself the question of the situational meaningfulness of some regulations that once solved a well-intentioned problem, but now suffocate everything in the thicket of other rules. Below is a very special children’s book that also makes adults think.
Lord Mayor Manfred Wagner will present prize as part of the 39th Wetzlar Days of Fantasy on Friday, September 8.
[Thanks to Cora Buhlert for the story Based on a press release.]