EU literary awards come to London

Winners Ida Hegazi Høyer and David Machado [European Union Prize for Literature]

This article is part of our special report 2015 EU Prize for Literature.

SPECIAL REPORT / The winners of the 2015 European Union Prize for Literature were announced at the London Book Fair last week (14 April).

Taking to the stage during the opening ceremony, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Tibor Navracsics, announced the 12 award recipients as:

Carolina Schutti (Austria); Luka Bekavac (Croatia); Gaëlle Josse (France); Edina Szvoren (Hungary); Donal Ryan (Ireland); Lorenzo Amurri (Italy); Undin? Radzevi?i?t? (Lithuania); Ida Hegazi Høyer (Norway); Magdalena Parys (Poland); David Machado (Portugal); Svetlana Žuchová (Slovakia) and Sara Stridsberg (Sweden).

The prize aims to put the spotlight on the creativity and wealth of European contemporary fiction. It is open to emerging authors from across the 36 countries taking part in the Creative Europe programme, which includes not only EU member states, but other European nations as well.

Each year 12 winners are announced, giving each participating country a representative over the three year cycle. Each winner is judged by a panel of local judges. The winners receive €5,000 and the opportunity to have their work translated into either English or French. The aim is to bring national literatures to the attention of an audience beyond their native language.

Navracsics told EURACTIV such prizes are symbols of a community, and, despite the range of languages, a European cultural community does exist. “It is not a homogenous one. It is not characterised by a single language or heritage,” said Navrascisc. “But still there is an element of coherence in that community.”

Anne Bergman is the director of the Federation of European Publishers, one of the prize’s organising bodies. Bergman thinks its value lies in bringing authors to the attention of a wider audience.

“If you look at previous winners, they have reached readers and markets they wouldn’t have been able to reach. The real virtue of the prize is to increase the circulation of literature,” she said.

“We are looking to make authors better known. That is why we collaborate with the London and Frankfurt Book Fairs.”

That the prize has 12 annual winners could be seen as diluting its value. But, the organisers say it helps to reflect the variety of literature on offer throughout the continent.

“It’s a lovely complicated prize, just like the European Union,” said Bergman

It is a sentiment which Navracsics agrees with. “It would be very difficult to have a single winner […] We cannot cast truth between different nationalities and different literatures.”

That said, there is an acceptance the format may be holding the prize back from wider recognition.

“It will be while before the prize receives true recognition, because it is complicated,” accepts Bergman.

But, the future appears bright.

“Prizes are becoming more important in promoting authors to readers and the EUPL prize has a great role to play in promoting modern European literature,” said the London Book Fair’s Jack Thomas.

“This prize is extremely significant, and we hope that by announcing the winners in front of a global publishing audience, it can spread its influence even further.”

The European Union Prize for Literature (EUPL) is open to the countries participating in Creative Europe, the EU funding programme for the cultural and creative sectors.

Every year, national juries in one third of the countries participating in the programme -12 this time - nominate the winning authors.

>> Read EURACTIV's Special Report about the 2014 prize

  • 23 June: Gala ceremony at the Concert Noble, in Brussels.

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