Full boil: foreign language entry wins 2018 Diagram Prize

Full boil: foreign language entry wins 2018 Diagram Prize

The United Kingdom may be teetering on the Brexit abyss but you, Diagram Prize voters, have plumped for European unity in the only referendum that really matters.

I am delighted to announce that, for the first time in the 40-year life of the world’s most prestigious literary gong, a foreign-language tome, Joy of Waterboiling, has won the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. A point of order to forestall any rants from foaming-at-the-mouth Brexiteers about bloody foreigners, coming over here, stealing our book prizes (or perhaps from Mark “Make America Go Home Again” Richards at John Murray, a renowned objector to certain awards criteria): though JOW is a German-language text, it is eligible for Diagram consideration as only a book’s title need be in English.

And JOW is a title that has absolutely romped to victory, garnering an astonishing 56% of votes cast—the biggest winning share since Cooking with Poo grabbed the (porcelain?) crown in 2014.

Fair dues to JOW’s Vienna-based publisher Asche Verlag: these guys wanted this prize. As an aside, it amuses me that the publisher’s name sounds to English ears as if it would make a group of puerile adolescents giggle. Asche is a hybrid digital/art/publishing venture that, according to its rather pretentious and, goodness gracious me, very lengthy mission statement, “promotes the development and expansion of a European network that questions conventional structures and shapes the future book market”. Hm, yeah... it’s made a cookbook with recipes centring on throwing water, potatoes and asparagus into a glorified kettle, and so might not be completely reinventing the wheel here.

Still, Asche must have a jolly side. And really, if Austrians are noted for anything besides psychoanalysis and beardy, cross-dressing Eurovision winners, it is their Lebensfreude (that’s the German phrase for joie de vivre; rather underused for some reason). Once shortlisted, Asche launched an impressive Instagram and Facebook drive, urging its many followers to vote for “your fav waterboiling bible” illustrated by—and this may be some kind of Mitteleuropa in-joke I’m missing—pictures of a T-Rex and an elephant. A co-ordinated drive that actually achieves its stated target? I’m thinking the Asche Diagram is a shoo-in for the Marketing Campaign of the Year Nibbie.

Hard-core Diagramistas know that a passable bottle of claret is traditionally given to the person who nominates the winning entry. Alas, this year’s shortlistees came from in-house sources, so rather than contribute to the further delinquency of The Bookseller staffers, we decided to award the claret to someone who voted for the winner, picked at random. That lucky person is... Penny Liechti, rights manager at Random House. Enjoy responsibly, Penny!

As one Diagram closes, our eyes are already turning to 2019. Send your suggestions my way, bitte. Quercus boss Jon Butler is in early doors with From Crook to Cook: Platinum Recipes from Tha Boss Dogg’s Kitchen by none other than Snoop Dogg. (I think we all know what the Dee-Oh-Double-Gee’s secret ingredient is.) Will Snoop make it to next year’s shortlist? Stay tuned...

See the rest of this year's Diagram Prize shortlist here.

Horace will be criss-crossing the nation in his Austin Allegro to spread word of this year’s Diagram Prize far and wide. To propose contenders for next year’s award, email bent@thebookseller.com.