EBRD Literature Prize 2019: finalists announced

By Jane  Ross


  • Three novels in English translation by Nora Ikstena (Latvia), Hamid Ismailov (Uzbekistan) and Olga Tokarczuk (Poland) shortlisted for €20,000 prize
  • Winner announced on 7 March 2019

Register now for the EBRD Literature Prize 2019 Award Ceremony on 7 March

Three novels have been announced as  finalists in the 2019 EBRD Literature Prize, created by the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The Prize celebrates the very best in translated literature from the almost 40 economies where the Bank invests, from Morocco to Mongolia, and from Estonia to Egypt. 

The three shortlisted finalists for this year’s Prize are:

The EBRD Literature Prize 2019 will be awarded to the best work of literary fiction originally written in a language from one of the 38 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.

The winner - both author and translator - will be announced at an award ceremony at the EBRD’s headquarters at One Exchange Square, London, on 7 March 2019. Register here.

Rosie Goldsmith, Chair of the Judges, said:

“With The Devils Dance, Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead and Soviet Milk you have three bold and beautiful works of fiction which represent the world of literature today. As judges, choosing three from our perfect and popular longlist of ten felt like a betrayal, but in these three novels, spanning eastern Europe, the Baltics and Central Asia, you have a wide world distilled - and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Samantha, Ted, Gabriel and I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as we did: the William Blake-loving, funny and furious eco-warrior Polish vegetarian; a painful mother-daughter novel struggling through decades of Soviet suppression in Latvia, and, the first-ever novel translated from Uzbek into English, replete with poetry and magical, tragical tales from Central Asia.  Each novel is wonderfully different but they all share the ability to reflect their own culture as well as telling universal stories to touch us all. The three authors and three translators are already major voices in their own cultures and languages. We hope passionately that the EBRD Literature Prize can also help promote them and literature in translation here in the UK.”

Colm Lincoln, Deputy Secretary General of the EBRD, said: “There was an impressive list of entries this year, covering almost all the Bank’s regions and multiple languages, and our independent judging panel had to work very hard to reach this decision. The panel has selected truly outstanding examples of literary fiction which represent the diversity of culture and uniqueness of countries where the EBRD invests. We congratulate our nominated writers and translators and look forward to learning more about these three extraordinary books at our award ceremony on Thursday, 7 March.”

See all information/announcements of the EBRD Literature Prize

About the Judges

Rosie Goldsmith (Chair of the Judging Panel) is an award-winning journalist specialising in arts and foreign affairs. In twenty years at the BBC, she travelled the world and presented several flagship programmes. Rosie is a linguist and has lived in Europe, Africa and the USA. Today she combines journalism with chairing and curating literary events and festivals for leading cultural organisations. Known as a champion of international literature, translation and language learning, she promotes them whenever she can. She is Founder and Director of the European Literature Network.

Gabriel Gbadamosi is a poet, playwright, and novelist. His London novel Vauxhall (2013) won the Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize and Best International Novel at the Sharjah Book Fair. He was AHRC Creative and Performing Arts Fellow at the Pinter Centre, Goldsmiths, a Judith E. Wilson Fellow for Creative Writing at Cambridge University and Royal Literary Fund Fellow at City & Guilds of London Art School. He was a presenter of the arts and ideas programme Night Waves on BBC Radio 3, a director of Wasafiri magazine for international contemporary writing. His first play Stop and Search was recently performed at the Arcola Theatre, London. Visit his website.

Ted Hodgkinson is an editor, critic, writer and Head of Literature and Spoken Word at the Southbank Centre, where he oversees the seasonal literature programme, as well as the prestigious London Literature Festival. He has previously judged the BBC National Short Story Award (2016), the British Book Awards (Debut of the Year, 2016) and the Costa Book Awards (Poetry, 2012). He co-edited, with Icelandic author and poet Sjón, the first anthology of Nordic short stories in English, The Dark Blue Winter Overcoat and other stories from the North (Pushkin Press, 2017), to critical acclaim. In 2017 he was named in The Bookseller’s list of the 100 most influential people in publishing.

Samantha Schnee is the Founding Editor of Words Without Borders, dedicated to publishing the world's best literature translated into English. She previously worked for Andrew Wylie as his assistant, then for Francis Coppola, launching his literary magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story. Her most recent translation from Spanish, of Mexican author Carmen Boullosa's TEXAS: THE GREAT THEFT (Deep Vellum, 2014), was shortlisted for the PEN America Translation Prize and won the Typographical Era Translation Award. She currently serves as secretary of the American Literary Translators Association. She also chairs PEN America’s Heim Translation Grants jury and is a trustee of English PEN.