By Jane Ross
The EBRD Literature Prize 2020, launched by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development two years ago to promote translated literary fiction from its regions of operations, has announced its selected longlist.
This is now the third 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(US$21.75) prize provides a unique opportunity to convey the culture, creativity and history of countries from central and 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 2020 has selected 10 novels that it considers to be outstanding works of storytelling. Rosie Goldsmith, Chair of the Judges, said: “In this year’s longlist, we have multiple narratives and fictional autobiographies, genre-defying literary hybrids, intricate page-turning literary fiction with beginnings, middles and ends, detective stories resembling historical novels, but also seductive, plotless, pared back prose as well as magnificent morality tales more akin to oral storytelling. Every which way! Our longlisted EBRD authors and translators are rewriting the traditional novel as we knew it.”
The selected longlist represents a fascinating balance of regions and countries, as well as writers, translators and publishers. The titles, in alphabetical order by author, are:
Not Saying Goodbye by Boris Akunin, translated by Andrew Bromfield (Orion Books). Language: Russian. Country: Russian Federation.
Sacred Darkness by Levan Berdzenishvili, translated by Brian James Baer and Ellen Vayner (Europa Editions). Language: Russian translation from Georgian. Country: Georgia.
Mrs Mohr Goes Missing by Maryla Szymiczkowa, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Oneworld Publications). Language: Polish. Country: Poland.
Bellevue by Ivana Dobrakovová, translated by Julia and Peter Sherwood (Jantar Publishing). Language: Slovakian. Country: Slovak Republic.
ICE by Sonallah Ibrahim, translated by Margaret Litvin (Seagull Books). Language: Arabic. Country: Egypt.
Devilspel by Grigory Kanovich, translated by Yisrael Elliot Cohen (Noir Press). Language: Russian. Country: Lithuania.
Every Fire You Tend by Sema Kaygusuz, translated by Nicholas Glastonbury (Tilted Axis Press). Language: Turkish. Country: Turkey.
Under Pressure by Faruk Šehić, translated by Mirza Purić (Istros Books). Language: Bosnian. Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Pixel by Krisztina Tóth, translated by Owen Good (Seagull Books). Language: Hungarian. Country: Hungary.
Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina, translated by Lisa C. Hayden (Oneworld Publications). Language: Russian. Country: Russian Federation.
Chair of the Judges, Rosie Goldsmith said: “This year’s EBRD Literature Prize longlist is exceptionally strong and varied and confirms the happy and healthy marriage of author and translator. After three years as Chair of the Judges, my literary world continues to expand thanks to my reading for this Prize. I continue to be amazed by the urgent power of the stories that the writers of the region need to share.”
EBRD Deputy Secretary General, Colm Lincoln commented: “At a time when the presence of ethnic exclusiveness is increasingly vocal, these books provide openings to different communities and cultures, enabling us to live outside our preconceptions and to connect with a whole new world of stories and experiences, which, for many readers, would otherwise be unknown. The EBRD Literature Prize underscores the universality of literature by celebrating works from languages and countries that have been under-represented and unacknowledged in the literary mainstream.”
The finalists (three authors and their translators) will be announced on 30 March. All six will be invited to attend the award ceremony at the EBRD’s headquarters at One Exchange Square, London, on 22 April, where the winner of the EBRD Literature Prize 2020 will be announced.
The prize promotes international literature from over 30 countries
About the judges
Chair of the Judging Panel Rosie Goldsmith 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. Rosie is Founder and Director of the European Literature Network. She served as Chair of the Judging Panel for the 2018 and 2019 editions of the EBRD Literature Prize.
Vesna Goldsworthy is a novelist, memoirist and poet. She is currently a Professor of Creative Writing at Exeter University. She came to academia after a career at the BBC and she continues to produce and present radio programmes. Her first novel Gorsky (2015) was the New York Times Editor’s Choice and has been translated into fifteen languages. Other notable work includes her internationally best-selling memoir Chernobyl Strawberries (2005); the poetry collection, The Angel of Salonika (2011); and Inventing Ruritania: the Imperialism of the Imagination (1998), recognised as one of the key contributions to the study of Balkan and European identity.
Boyd Tonkin is a writer, journalist and critic who chaired the judging panel of the Man Booker International Prize in 2016 and is now Special Adviser to the Man Booker International Prize. He writes for The Financial Times, The Economist, The Spectator, The Observer, New Scientist and Newsweek magazine, and is contributing editor for The Arts Desk online. Until 2016 he was Senior Writer of The Independent, and was the newspaper’s Literary Editor from 1996 to 2013. He re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2001, co-judging it every year until its merger with the Man Booker International Prize. He is the author of the recent The 100 Best Novels in Translation published by Galileo (2018).
Thomas de Waal is a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe, specialising in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region. He has authored numerous publications about the region, including The Caucasus: An Introduction, Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide and Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. Before joining Carnegie, Thomas worked extensively as a journalist in both print and for BBC radio. In the 1990s, he worked in Moscow for the Moscow Times, the Times of London, and the Economist, specialising in Russian politics and the situation in Chechnya.
He co-authored (with Carlotta Gall) the book Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus, for which the authors were awarded the James Cameron Prize for Distinguished Reporting.