Social Translating
Saša Stanišić: “Origin”

Author and Book

Saša Stanišić Photo: Katja Sämann
Saša Stanišić, born in Višegrad in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1978, came to Germany when he was fourteen. He studied at the Deutsches Literaturinstitut in Leipzig. Stanišić has received numerous stipends and prizes, including the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize and the Leipzig Book Fair Prize. His books Before The Feast and How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone have been translated into numerous languages. For the short stories in Trappers he was awarded the Rheingau Literature Prize and the Schubart Literature Prize. Saša Stanišić lives and works in Hamburg.

Frankfurt Book Fair, 14 October 2019
Saša Stanišić’s “Origins” wins the 2019 German Book Prize

Justification of the jury
 "Saša Stanišić is such a good storyteller that he even distrusts storytelling. Beneath each sentence in this novel the unavailable origins lurk, which simultaneously drive the storytelling. These origins only make themselves available as a fragment, a fiction and as a toying with the story’s possibilities. The author ennobles his readers with his vast imagination and releases them from the conventions of chronology, realism and formal unambiguity. “Hesitation has never told a good story”, he has his first-person narrator say. With great humour, he counters the narratives of historical misrepresentation with his own stories. “Herkunft” (“Origins”) is a portrait of a present that constantly re-tells itself anew – with the result that a “Self-Portrait with Ancestors” becomes a novel about a Europe of life journeys."


“ORIGIN is a book about the first coincidence in our biography: being born somewhere. And about what happens afterwards.

ORIGIN is a book about the places that are my home, the ones in my memory and the ones I have invented. It is a book about language, moonlighting, youth and many summers. The summer when my grandfather trod on my grandmother's foot while dancing in such a way that I was almost never born. The summer when I nearly drowned. The summer when Angela Merkel opened the borders and which was very like the summer when I fled across many borders to Germany.

ORIGIN is a farewell to my grandmother with her dementia. While I am collecting my memories she is losing hers.

ORIGIN is sad because for me origin has got something to do with what I can no longer have.

My biographic writings, also this text, are like the name on the doorbell of a man long since dead that I can no longer remember – an attempt to preserve something that used to be important. To preserve it, but also to develop it further in one's mind, to get to the bottom of it.”


Through our partnership with Random House, the following translators outside Asia are participating in the Social Translating Project with Saša Stanišić: Francoise Toraille (French).