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Photo courtesy of the European Union Prize
Photo courtesy of the European Union Prize

The European Union Literary Prize Announces its 2017 Winners

Picture of Michael Barron
Books and Digest Editor
Updated: 25 April 2017
The annual award is given by a EU commission to promote emerging literary talents from across the continent.

Winners have been announced for the annual European Union Prize, a literary award granted to twelve writers selected from its member countries (and selected sovereign states). The prize includes a cash prize of €5 000, sample translations of their work into English and other languages, and inclusion in a major promotional campaign.

Here is a full list of the winners. Names are linked to the pages that provide more biographical info, summaries of their winning works, and where noted, excerpts translated into English. We’ve provided the EUP’s descriptions for each book below:

Bianca Bellová
(the Czech Republic) for The Lake (sample translated by Alex Zucker)

A fishing village at the end of the world. A lake that is drying up and, ominously, pushing out its banks. The men have vodka, the women have troubles, the children have eczema to scratch at…For its hero – a boy who embarks on his journey with nothing but a bundle of nerves and a coat that was once his grandad’s – it is a pilgrimage. To get to the greatest mystery, he must sail across and walk around the lake and finally sink to its bottom.

Rudi Erebara
(Albania) for The Epic of the Morning Stars 

A technical issue occurring on 16 October 1978, the birthday of Albania’s dictator Enver Hoxha, is attributed by the State Security Services to Suleyman, an Albanian painter employed at the state decoration company in the capital of Albania. Also on this date, Albania is about to sever its relations with Mao’s communist China; Józef Wojtyła, a priest from communist Poland, becomes Pope John Paul II in the Vatican; and a heavy shower washes away the letters of the slogans written by the state decoration company in deep red…

Ina Vultchanova
(Bulgaria) for The Crack-Up Island

Two women strike up a friendship, one of them is a newly self-initiated amateur astrologer and reads in the stars that a coming crack-up is threatening the other. Written as a series of narrative pieces, The Crack-Up Island describes the lives women, lovers, cats,  about an island in the Adriatic sea, where the star-foreseen crack-up might occur.

Kallia Papadaki
(Greece) for Detritus 

Adolescents and adults in crisis-ridden 1980s Camden, New Jersey, must deal with hard times, and gain perspectives through flashbacks to previous generations of Greek and other Puerto Rican immigrants. When Minnie’s teenage troublemaker brother goes missing, her Puerto Rican mother dies of sadness. The Campanis family decides to take Minnie in: Susan, the ex-hippy mother; Basil, the second-generation Greek-American stepfather; and Leto, Minnie’s classmate and Susan and Basil’s only daughter. Minnie’s arrival makes unattended family scars flare up again.

Halldóra K. Thoroddsen (Iceland) for Double Glazing  Death

is closing in on an elderly woman in her small apartment; her husband recently passed away, her friends gone, her body failing and her role in society diminished. As she observes the world through her window pane, she feels simultaneously exposed and isolated. A sudden chance of romance swirls up into her lonely existence, filling her with exuberance but also with doubt. Knowing that the love life of the elderly is still a taboo to be frowned upon or even ridiculed, she will have to find strength to go against the norm.

Osvalds Zebris (Latvia) for In the Shadow of Rooster Hill

It is 1905 in Riga – the Russian Tsar is slowly losing power over his vast empire, and the city is being rocked by worker riots, violence and pogroms. Revolution is in the air. Pitting brother against brother, the chaos forces people to choose a side. Among this upheaval, a former schoolteacher becomes involved in the revolution, but soon realizes that war will take much more than he is willing to give.

Walid Nabhan (Malta) for Exodus of Storks

The novel tells the story, in the first person, of a Palestinian man called Nabil who has lived all his life outside his homeland. His life is irrevocably intertwined with the fate of Palestine and of the whole Arab world, and in trying to understand himself he needs to find explanations for the way things have turned out in the Middle East, especially since the Six-Day War, an event which coincided with the birth of the narrator. The events in the novel take place mainly in Jordan, where Nabil was brought up and where his father continued to live until his death, and Malta, where the protagonist ended up later in life.

Darko Tuševljaković (Serbia) for Chasm

In the first of the two parts of the novel, an estranged husband suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of his war experience, strives to re-establish the relationship with his estranged wife during a holiday in Greece, succeeding only in deepening the discord between the two of them. The second part takes place in Serbia and focuses upon the main reason for the marital discord of the couple from the first part – the plight of their son, a student who tries to find his place in society, as well as his identity, through a series of dramatic events with a surprising and powerful twist at the end.

Aleksandar Bečanović (Montenegro) for Arcueil

On Easter Sunday, April 3, 1768, Marquis de Sade promised an écu to a beggar by the name of Rose Keller if she would follow him to Arcueil. Only a few hours later, after Keller managed to escape from the Marquis’ country house, this little ’adventure’ in the Paris suburbs would become the notorious ‘Arcueil affair’, a scandal that caught the public imagination in France and beyond.Different testimonies and rumours were spreading, conflicting interpretations were heard, but what really happened in the Marquis’ room? Where lies the truth about the scandal? Was Arcueil the scene of horrible sadistic sexual violence and some kind of perverse theatrical production, or was the victim not so innocent after all?

Jamal Ouariachi (the Netherlands) for A Hunger

Aurélie is the loving and dedicated mother of a three-year-old daughter, a role she combines with a successful career in television. Her life is turned upside down when she receives a phone call out of the blue from an ex-lover: Alexander Laszlo, formerly an iconic figure in the world of Dutch development aid and once better known as ‘Holland’s answer to Bob Geldof.’
The novel explores the before and after of Aurélie and Alexander’s relationship, which came to an abrupt end when Laszlo was convicted of sexual abuse.

Sine Ergün (Turkey) for Chickadee

23 stories in 80 pages are succinct: the shortest story is just one page long, the longest six pages, regarding political satire, absurdism, the microscope of self-identity  and the macroscope of city, state, and love of country and revolt toward those in power.

Sunjeev Sahota (the United Kingdom) for The Year of the Runaways The Year of the Runaways

tells of the bold dreams and daily struggles of an unlikely family thrown together by circumstance. Thirteen young men live in a house in Sheffield, each in flight from India and in desperate search of a new life. Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his past in Bihar; and Avtar has a secret that binds him to protect the chaotic Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a visa-wife in a flat on the other side of town: a clever, devout woman whose cupboards are full of her husband’s clothes, in case the immigration men surprise her with a call.


* All photos courtesy of the European Union Prize