EBRD Literature Prize 2021: selected longlist announced

By Jane  Ross

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  • The Prize recognises the best works of literary fiction from the EBRD’s regions translated into English
  • Longlist features work translated from eight languages
  • Winner of €20,000 prize to be announced in May

The EBRD Literature Prize 2021, launched by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to promote translated literary fiction from its regions of operations, announces its selected longlist today. 

This is now the fourth year of the EBRD Literature Prize which celebrates the very best in translated literature from the nearly 40 countries where the Bank invests: from central and eastern Europe to Central Asia, the Western Balkans and the southern and eastern Mediterranean.

The €20,000 Prize is awarded to the best work of literary fiction originally written in a language from one of these countries, which has been translated into English and published by a UK or a Europe-based publisher.

The international prize was created in 2017 by the EBRD with funding provided by the members of the EBRD, in cooperation with the British Council. It is one of the few international literature prizes which recognises both author and translator in equal measure.

The independent panel of judges for the EBRD Literature Prize 2021 has selected 10 novels that they consider outstanding works of storytelling. In total, eight languages feature on the selected longlist, which represents a fascinating mix of cultures from across the EBRD regions of operations.

Toby Lichtig, Chair of the Judges, said: “Given the diversity of territories covered by the EBRD, it is perhaps unsurprising how varied and culturally rich this longlist is, both thematically and stylistically. The ten books move us from 1930s Warsaw to 1950s Czechoslovakia to contemporary Ukrainian no man’s land; from a Kafakaesque tale of judicial injustice to an absurdist tragicomedy of human smuggling; from the dying days of the Ottoman Empire to an alternative Balkans hauling itself into the present day. Taken together, they give a picture of an Eurasian region riven with the scars of war and displacement, cruelty and carelessness, and teeming with human resilience and ingenuity. And love. Each book is unique, each translation brilliantly realised.”

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

Love in the Days of Rebellion by Ahmet Altan, translated by Brendan Freely and Yelda Türedi (Europa Editions). Language: Turkish. Country: Turkey.

The Pear Field by Nana Ekvtimishvili, translated by Elizabeth Heighway (Peirene Press. Language: Georgian. Country: Georgia.

Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov, translated by Boris Dralyuk (MacLehose Press, an imprint of Quercus). Language: Russian. Country: Ukraine

Carbide by Andriy Lyubka, translated by Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stockhouse Wheeler (Jantar Publishing Ltd). Language: Ukrainian. Country: Ukraine

Hana by Alena Mornstajnova, translated by Julia and Peter Sherwood (Parthian Books). Language: Czech. Country: Czech Republic.

No-Signal Area by Robert Perisic, translated by Ellen Elias-Bursac (Seven Stories Press). Language: Croatian. Country: Croatia.

The Highly Unreliable Account of the History of a Madhouse by Ayfer Tunc, translated by Feyza Howell (Istros Books). Language: Turkish. Country: Turkey.

The King of Warsaw by Szczepan Twardoch, translated by Sean Gasper Bye (Amazon Crossing). Language: Polish. Country: Poland.

Mr K Released by Matei Visniec, translated by Jozefina Komporaly (Seagull Books). Language: Romanian. Country: Romania.

Your Ad Could Go Here by Oksana Zabuzhko, translated by Nina Murray, Marta Horban, Marco Carynnyk, Halyna Hryn, and Askold Melnyczuk

(Amazon Crossing). Language: Ukrainian. Country: Ukraine.

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 Chair of the Community Initiative, Kazuhiko Koguchi, said today: The Literature Prize reminds us of the wealth of creativity and cultures across our regions of operations, and highlights the role of storytelling in connecting us all and building bridges across borders.

The finalists (three authors and their translators) of the EBRD Literature Prize 2021 will be announced on 3 May 2021. All will be invited to attend the award ceremony later that month (date to be determined), where the winner of the EBRD Literature Prize 2021 will be announced.

About the Judges

Toby Lichtig (Chair of Judges) is the Fiction and Politics Editor of the Times Literary Supplement (TLS). He is also a freelance editor and writer, and writes for a range of publications including the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian. Toby has appeared as a guest critic on various television and radio programmes. He also freelances as a documentary producer. He was chair of judges of the 2018 JQ-Wingate Prize and was a jury member of the 2019 EU Prize for Literature.

Twitter: @TobyLichtig

Anna Aslanyan is a freelance journalist and translator from Russian. She writes for the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) and other publications. Her translation of Egor Kovalevsky's 1848 travelogue, A Journey to Inner Africa, is forthcoming with Amherst College Press in November 2020. Her popular history of translation, Dancing on Ropes: Translators and the Balance of History, will be published by Profile Books in May 2021.

Twitter: @anna_aslanyan

Julian Evans is a biographer, travel writer and translator. He established himself on the literary scene with Transit of Venus (1992), an account of his journey across the Pacific Ocean to the US's nuclear-missile test range at Kwajalein Atoll. His most recent book is Semi-Invisible Man, an authorised biography of the writer Norman Lewis. Julian has written and presented radio and television documentaries and writes for English and French newspapers and magazines including the GuardianProspectDaily TelegraphGrantaConde Nast Traveller, and L’Atelier du Roman. He translates from French and German and is a recipient of the Prix du Rayonnement de la Langue Française from the Académie Française. He is a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow.

Twitter: @thejulianevans

Kirsty Lang is an experienced journalist and broadcaster with a special interest in foreign affairs and the arts. She spent many years as a foreign correspondent reporting for the BBC and the Sunday Times from eastern Europe and later Paris. She’s been a presenter on Channel 4 News, BBC World, and the Radio 4 daily arts programme Front Row. She chaired the Orange Prize for Fiction, and was a judge of the Independent Prize for Foreign Fiction in Translation. She has been a visiting Professor in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York and teaches a writing course at University College London. She is also Chair of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead and a former Trustee of the British Council.

Twitter: @bbckirstylang

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