Novels in English translation by Boris Akunin (Russia), Daša Drndić (Croatia) and Burhan Sönmez (Turkey) up for €20,000 prize - winner announced 10 April 2018
Three novels have been announced as the finalists of the first EBRD Literature Prize, a €20,000 award launched in 2017 by the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in partnership with the British Council and the London Book Fair.
The three finalists are:
- All the World’s a Stage by Boris Akunin, translated from Russian by Andrew Bromfield (Weidenfeld & Nicolson);
- Belladonna by Daša Drndić, translated from Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth (Maclehose/Quercus);
- Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez, translated from Turkish by Ümit Hussein (Telegram Books).
The EBRD is a multilateral development bank, created after the fall of the Berlin wall to help emerging economies move towards open markets. The Bank launched the prize in recognition of the vibrancy of its region’s literature, which is still little known in the English-speaking world.
The prize will be awarded to the best work of literary fiction originally written in a language from one of the 37 economies where the Bank invests, translated into English and published by a UK publisher. The winner will receive the top prize of €20,000, split evenly between the author and the translator, and the two runner-up titles will receive €2,000, similarly divided.
Rosie Goldsmith, the chair of the judging panel, said: “These three novels form a perfect trio of great craft, insight and originality. Belladonna is an unflinching but brilliant and beautiful novel of ideas. Istanbul Istanbul provides a witty, wonderful and wise window on the world and on our flawed humanity but without leaving the prison cell. And All The World’s A Stage is a thrillingly entertaining, informative and literary romp through Russian history. As judges we were unanimous. These are astonishingly good reads.”
All the World’s a Stage is part of Boris Akunin’s popular historical mystery series featuring detective Erast Fandorin, set in the theatrical world of imperial Russia.
Belladonna is a work which references the darkest hours of the last century: the Holocaust in Croatia, the breakdown of Yugoslavia and resurgence of ethnic hatred through the eyes and memories of a dying man, academic Andreas Ban.
Istanbul Istanbul is set in Turkey’s largest city after a military coup; four prisoners tell ten stories filled with love and humour, reminiscent of Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, while awaiting their fate.
The winner will be announced in London at an award ceremony at the EBRD’s headquarters at One Exchange Square, London, on 10 April 2018.
A special event will also be held at London Book Fair (LBF) at 11:30 on 11 April 2018 with the title ‘Whose Prize is it Anyway?’ featuring the prize winners and judges. This year, LBF is showcasing books from the Baltic states, one of the EBRD regions of operations.
The judges chose the three finalists from the six shortlisted titles, announced on 5 February. They were:
All the World’s a Stage by Boris Akunin (translated by Andrew Bromfield) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Belladonna by Daša Drndić (translated by Celia Hawkesworth) (Maclehose/Quercus)
The Traitor’s Niche by Ismail Kadare (translated by John Hodgson) (Penguin)
The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk (translated by Ekin Oklap) (Faber & Faber)
Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez (translated by Ümit Hussein) (Telegram Books)
Maryam: Keeper of Stories by Alawiya Sobh (translated by Nirvana Tanoukhi) (Seagull Books)
About the EBRD Literature Prize:
The prize provides a unique opportunity to reflect the culture and creativity of almost 40 economies where the Bank invests, from Morocco to Mongolia, from Estonia to Egypt. The prize will be awarded to the best work of literary fiction translated from the original language into English and published by a UK publisher in the 18 months prior to 15 November 2017. Divided equally between author and translator, it champions the art of translation as well as the extraordinary richness, depth and variety of arts and history in the countries in the Bank’s region. The EBRD Literature Prize is a project of the Bank’s Community Initiative.
About the EBRD:
The EBRD was set up in 1991 after the fall of the Berlin Wall to meet the challenge of an extraordinary moment in Europe’s history: the collapse of communism. It is a multilateral bank with almost 70 shareholders which promotes the development of the private sector and entrepreneurial initiatives in 37 economies across three continents.
About the judges:
Peter Frankopan is Professor of Global History at Oxford University. His most recent book, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, was an international number 1 bestseller.
Gabriel Gbadamosi is a poet, playwright, essayist and broadcaster. He was a Judith E. Wilson Fellow for creative writing at Cambridge University. His London novel Vauxhall won the 2011 Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize.
Lucy Hannah is a writer and producer who founded Commonwealth Writers in 2011. She has worked for a range of organisations on communication for development projects, mostly in areas of conflict and post-conflict, including South Sudan, Chechnya and Afghanistan.
Rosie Goldsmith, chair of the judging panel, is an award-winning journalist specialising in arts and current affairs in the UK and abroad, and a champion of international literature. She is Founder and Director of the European Literature Network.
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