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Jenny Erpenbeck’s ‘Kairos’ Wins the International Booker Prize

Jenny Erpenbeck’s “Kairos,” a novel about a torrid love affair in the final years of East Germany, won on Tuesday the International Booker Prize, the renowned award for fiction translated into English.

Erpenbeck shares the award of 50,000 British pounds, about $63,500, with Michael Hofmann, who translated the book into English. The pair received the prize during a ceremony at the Tate Modern art museum in London.

After receiving the award, the pair seemed lost for words. Erpenbeck thanked her family, and Hofmann thanked Erpenbeck: “I want to thank Jenny for her trust in me,” he said. “Er, that’s about the size of it.”

Eleanor Wachtel, the chair of the judges, said in a news conference that “Kairos” was more than a simple evocation of a romance. The “self-absorption of the lovers” — a student and a 50-something novelist — and “their descent into a destructive vortex” tracks the history of East Germany before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, she said.

Like that country, Wachtel added, the couple’s relationship “starts with optimism and trust, then unravels so badly.”

“What makes ‘Kairos’ so unusual is that it’s both beautiful and uncomfortable, personal and political, psychological and very moving,” Wachtel said. The judging panel deliberated for half an hour before deciding to give “Kairos” the prize, she added.

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