EBRD Literature Prize 2019: longlist announced

By Jane  Ross


EBRD Literature Prize promotes international literature from over 30 countries. Winner of €20,000 prize to be announced on 7 March 2019

The EBRD Literature Prize 2019, launched by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development last year to promote translated literary fiction from its regions of operations, announces its longlist today.

This is now the second year of the EBRD Literature Prize – one of the few international literature prizes which recognises both author and translator in equal measure. 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.

The independent panel of judges for the EBRD Literature Prize 2019 has chosen 10 novels that they deem 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. In total, nine languages feature on the list of ten, which delivers an exciting balance of countries, languages, translators, gender and publishers.

The longlisted titles, in alphabetical order by author, are:

Lala by Jacek Dehnel, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (One World)

Language: Polish

Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena, translated by Margita Gaelitis (Peirene Press)

Language: Latvian

The Devil’s Dance by Hamid Ismailov, translated by Donald Rayfield (with John Farndon) (Tilted Axis Press)

Language: Uzbek

My Name is Adam by Elias Khoury, translated by Humphrey Davies (MacLehose Press)

Language: Arabic

The Clash of Images by Abdelfattah Kilito, translated by Robyn Cresswell (Darf Publishers)

Language: French (Moroccan)

The Peace Machine by Özgür Mumcu, translated by Mark David Wyers (Pushkin Press)

Language: Turkish

Drive your Plow by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Language: Polish

The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin, translated by Lisa C. Hayden (One World)

Publisher: Russian

The Book of Whispers by Varujan Vosganian, translated by Alastair Ian Blyth (Yale University Press)

Language: Romanian

Shatila Stories by 9 authors, translated by Nashwa Gowanlock (Peirene Press)

Language: Arabic

Rosie Goldsmith, Chair of the Judges, said: “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. 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.”

Colm Lincoln, EBRD Deputy Secretary General, commented: “At the EBRD, we believe that the contemporary literature of our regions of operations deserves to be much better known and recognised. Our Prize aims to bring the stories and voices of these regions closer to the English-speaking world.”

A shortlist of three books (three authors and three translators) will be announced on 18 February 2019. All six will be invited to attend the award ceremony at the EBRD’s Headquarters at One Exchange Square, London, on 7 March, where the winner of the EBRD Literature Prize 2019 will be announced.

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 is currently running 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.

About the EBRD Literature Prize:

The EBRD Literature Prize is a project of the Bank’s Community Initiative, a programme which provides a framework for the engagement of staff and the institution 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 in the 18 months up to 14 November 2018. The first prize, worth €20,000, will be equally divided between the winning author and translator. Two runners-up and their translators will receive a prize of €1,000 each.

The Prize not only rewards the writer for voicing the hopes, aspirations and challenges facing people across our regions, but also champions the art of translation and acknowledges the key role of the translator in making these stories widely accessible to the English-speaking public.

The EBRD Literature Prize 2018

The first EBRD Literature Prize, won by the Turkish author Burhan Sönmez and his translator Ümit Hussein for the novel “Istanbul, Istanbul” in April 2018, attracted a wealth of submissions and introduced readers to a wide range of literature from countries as diverse as Albania, Croatia, Morocco, Russia and Turkey.  Read more about the finalists and the shortlisted titles from the first EBRD Literature Prize 2018  here.

The 2018 Prize went on to attract wide interest, with dedicated events at both the London Book Fair and the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival. Like them, the EBRD Literature Prize is key to widening the audiences, appreciation and readership for translated literary fiction, in general.

Rosie Goldsmith says: “Our first winners were exceptionally good and set the bar very high.  My 2019 judging panel is committed to building on this great start by tracking down those outstanding new international publications which we hope will grace your bookshelves in 2019”.

About the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (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 69 shareholders which promotes the development of the private sector and entrepreneurial initiatives in 38 economies across three continents. 

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