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EBRD announces its Literature Prize 2019 longlist

EBRD announces its Literature Prize 2019 longlist

 January 24, 2019

The EBRD Literature Prize 2019 has announced its longlist. The prize was launched by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 2018 to promote translated literary fiction from its regions of operations. The €20,000 Prize provides a unique opportunity to reflect the culture, creativity and storytelling of countries from eastern Europe to the Baltic States, Central Asia, the Western Balkans and the southern and eastern Mediterranean.

Championing writers and translators

The EBRD Literature Prize is a project of the Bank’s Community Initiative, a programme which allows staff and the EBRD to engage in philanthropic, social and cultural activities in the regions where the Bank works.

The Prize is awarded to the best work of literary fiction translated from its original language into English and published by a UK publisher. The first prize, worth €20,000, is equally divided between the winning author and translator. Two runners-up and their translators receive a prize of €1,000 each.

The EBRD Literature Prize is one of the few international literature prizes which recognises equally both author and translator. It not only rewards the writer for voicing the hopes, aspirations and challenges facing people across the regions of the EBRD, but also champions the art of translation and acknowledges the key role of the translator in making these stories widely accessible to an English-speaking readership.

Outstanding works of storytelling

The independent panel of judges for the EBRD Literature Prize 2019 has chosen 10 novels that they believe  to be outstanding works of storytelling. The longlist shows the bold and broad interpretation of what a novel is around the world.

"The top ten books are diverse and daring; stories of deeply personal tragedies and triumphs, groundbreaking ideas, memoirs, historical testimonies and soaring imagination tied together by a strong narrative. Indeed, these novels are a source of fresh ideas on humanity and history, an imaginative and creative way of thinking about our world today," comments the EBRD on its website.

In total, nine languages feature on the list of ten, which highlights an exciting balance of countries, languages, translators, gender and publishers.

The judging panel itself shows the diversity that the EBRD wish to promote. The panel of four is 50% female and comprises of Rosie Goldsmith, an award-winning journalist specialising in arts and foreign affairs, and Samantha Schnee, the Founding Editor of Words Without Borders, dedicated to publishing the world's best literature translated into English.

A diverse judging panel

“Our imagination and intellect have been stretched in all directions. As judges over the past few months of reading, we’ve travelled across cultures and centuries, visited refugee camps, ghettoes, rural villages and grand family homes. It’s been an unparalleled experience," says Rosie, Chair of the Judges.

"The gift of this prize is its genuinely broad geographical reach. So many countries, so much history, so many stories to tell. The increasing diversity and openness in UK publishing also means – we hope – that the Prize will help everyone become more open to translated fiction.”

An exciting longlist

The longlist includes some talented women writers and translators telling the stories of a diverse range of cultures.

  • Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena, translated by Margita Gaelitis (Peirene Press) Language: Latvian
  • The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin, translated by Lisa C. Hayden (One World) Publisher: Russian
  • Shatila Stories by 9 authors, translated by Nashwa Gowanlock (Peirene Press) Language: Arabic
  • Drive your Plow by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Fitzcarraldo Editions) Language: Polish

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