31.03.2023 #literature

Margret Steckel honoured with Batty Weber Prize

Margret Steckel © Georges Hausemer (2014)

Margret Steckel, born in Mecklenburg and living in Luxembourg since 1983, has been awarded the Batty Weber Prize. The jury justified its choice of Margret Steckel as the laureate with the following words:

Margret Steckel’s (*1934) work is characterised by a linguistic and thematic density that combines historical context and precise character drawing to produce texts of great nuance.

Her writing career actually began in Luxembourg in exchange with other actors in the literary world, a commitment that continues to this day, among other things through her involvement in Luxembourg writers’ associations. Margret Steckel’s short stories, narratives and novels are initially strongly autobiographical. Following the stages of her life, important moments of 20th century European history are depicted, such as National Socialism, the reality of the early GDR, flight movements and questions of the alterity of a life abroad, the reconstruction after 1989. Unlike traditional historical novels, however, Margret Steckel does not encounter these moments primarily with a narrative ductus committed to a clear plot structure, but with a pointillism anchored in the art of language and the precision of observation. The focus of what is described is always the consciousness of the individual and his or her multi-layered perception. Questions are asked about memory mechanisms, which, palimpsest-like, also stylistically determine what is depicted.

Margret Steckel also uses the techniques of empathetic character portrayal and remembering to approach other biographical realities. For example, the story ‘Der Letzte vom Bayrischen Platz’ (1996), which was awarded the Prix Servais in 1997, describes the experiences of a young man in Berlin in the 1930s and 1940s in a complex narrative interweaving. The family novel ‘Servais’ (2010) sketches a panorama of important historical and social moments in Luxembourg’s history from the 18th to the 20th century, using the example of a Luxembourgish family of the upper middle classes. In the process, possibilities of historical narration are also questioned and reflected upon.

In her texts, Margret Steckel also deals with interpersonal power structures and the painful divergence between free will and external coercion. Here, moments of female experience are also described.

Margret Steckel’s texts are characterised by a particularly careful and sensitive use of language, a delicate technique that she also described in her poetic essay ‘Meine Sprache, mein Farbkasten’ (2021).

The jury recognises in Margret Steckel a linguistically nuanced and original work and a writerly attitude which, in describing the painful turmoil of history, always stands up for humanistic values and the dignity of the individual.

The Batty Weber Prize is Luxembourg’s national literary prize and has been awarded since 1987. The prize is awarded every 3 years by the Luxembourg Ministry of Culture in honour of the Luxembourg writer Batty Weber and is intended to reward a Luxembourg writer for literary quality, originality and the cultural impact of the body of work. The Batty Weber Prize is endowed with 10,000 euros.

The Batty Weber Prize was recently awarded to :

Pierre Joris in 2020
Georges Hausemer in 2017
Lambert Schlechter in 2014
Jean Portante in 2011
Nico Helminger in 2008

The official award ceremony will take place on 26 September at 7.30 pm at the CNL in Mersch.