EBRD Literature Prize

Winner in 2020

Writer: Grigory Kanovich
Translator: Yisrael Elliot Cohen
Publisher: Noir Press
Language: Russian
Country: Lithuania

Devilspel remembers the Jewish dead of Lithuania and its neighbours and asks, what makes people turn to good or evil?

In April 2020, Vanora Bennett talked to the writer Grigory Kanovich and his translator Yisrael Elliiot Cohen about the historical background to Devilspel, the universality of its themes and the art of translation itself.

Read the interview with Grigory and Ysirael

Grigory Kanovich

Grigory Kanovich (1929-) is one of the most prominent modern Lithuanian Jewish writers. He has written more than ten novels – a virtual epic saga – dealing with the vicissitudes of the history of Eastern European Jewry from the 19th century to the present day.
Kanovich was born into a traditional Jewish family in the Lithuanian town of Jonava. His native language is Yiddish but he has to chosen to write in Russian. He has dedicated his life, in his own words, ‘to what has been lost, to what has been destroyed - the small Jewish town.’ He has been awarded the Medal of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas and the Order for Merits to Lithuania. In 2014 he was awarded the National Prize for Culture and Arts.  His novel Shtetl Love Song was awarded the Liudas Dovydenas Prize by the Lithuanian Writers’ Union.

Yisrael Elliot Cohen

Yisrael Elliot Cohen is an alumnus of both Harvard and Yale Universities, and taught Russian literature and humanities at the University of Illinois. He settled in Israel in 1979, working as a professional translator from Russian into English and as an English-language editor. At Hebrew University he was co-editor of Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe and worked on a bibliography project for the Centre for the Study of Anti-Semitism. Currently at Yad Vashem, Cohen is working on The Untold Stories: Holocaust Murder Sites in the Soviet Union. Devilspel is the second novel by Grigory Kanovich that Cohen has translated.

About the Publisher

The aim of Noir Press is to introduce the new Lithuanian writing to an English-reading audience. There is a wide and healthy literary scene in Lithuania, and a number of prominent writers are now being translated into other European languages. Yet, not many of these writers are currently being translated into English. Noir Press seeks to remedy this by publishing some of the most interesting writing being produced by contemporary writers in Lithuanian.