European Union Prize for Literature: The 2021 Winners

In News by Porter Anderson

This year, the honor goes to writers from Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Iceland, Latvia, Malta, Moldova, the Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, and Tunisia.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Vom Cleff: ‘Translation Is the Language of Empathy’
Our regular Publishing Perspectives readers will remember that in this season of double- and triple-parked publishing and book award announcements, one of the largest shortlists came to us from Brussels, the European Union Prize for Literature announcing 55 shortlisted titles from 14 nations.

Today (May 18), that program has named 13 authors its new laureates.

Just to refresh your awards-crowded memory, in this instance, participating member-states rotate annually, and the program is financed by the European Commission’s Creative Europe program. A third of the countries compete annually.

The organizing associations behind the prize are the European Writers Council, the Federation of European Publishers, and the European and International Booksellers Federation, all well known to Publishing Perspectives’ international readership.

Overall, the European Union Prize reaches 41 nations under the Creative Europe umbrella. Each nation’s shortlist is selected by a national jury. And in the prize announcement, each winning title was named by a representative of its national jury.

European Union Prize for Literature 2021 Laureates
  • Albania: Enkel Demi (pen name Tom Kuka), Flama (Calamity), publisher: Botime Pegi.
  • Armenia: Արամ Պաչյան (Aram Pachyan), P/F (P/F), publisher: Էջ հրատարակչություն (Edge publishing house).
  • Bulgaria: Георги Бърдаров (Georgi Bardarov), Absolvo te (Absolvo te), publisher: Musagena.
  • Czech Republic: Lucie FaulerováSmrtholka (Deathmaiden), publisher: Nakladatelství TORST.
  • Iceland: Sigrún PálsdóttirDelluferðin (Runaround), publisher: Forlagið útgáfa (JPV).
  • Latvia: Laura VinogradovaUpe (The River), publisher: Zvaizgne ABC.
  • Malta: Lara CallejaKissirtu kullimkien (You Have Destroyed Everything), publisher: Merlin Publishers.
  • Netherlands: Gerda BleesWij zijn licht (We are light), publisher: Uitgeverij Podium.
  • Portugal: Frederico PedreiraA Lição do Sonâmbulo (The Sleepwalker Lesson), publisher: Companhia das Ilhas.
  • Serbia: Dejan Tiago StankovićZamalek (Zamalek), publisher: Laguna.
  • Slovenia: Anja MugerliČebelja družina (Bee Family), publisher: Cankarjeva založba.
  • Sweden: Maxim GrigorievEuropa (Europe), publisher: Albert Bonniers Förlag.
  • Tunisia: أمين الغزي (Amine Al Ghozzi), زندالي ليلة 14 جانفي 2011 (Zindali, the night of 14 january 2011), publisher: زينب ش  Zeineb Éditions

If you’d like to review the jurors operating in each country, you’ll find information on them here, categorized by nation and by year.

Mariya Gabriel

In a prepared statement, Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, and Graça Fonseca, the minister of culture of Portugal, congratulated the winning laureates.

“The EU Prize for Literature,” Gabriel said, “celebrates and promotes the incredible creativity and diversity that can be found in Europe’s contemporary literature scene. The immense value of literature is more apparent now than ever before. Having lived under the shadow of COVID-19 for more than a year, books have become ‘essential.'”

Nina George. Image: Helmut Henkensiefken

Speaking for the European Writers’ Council, its president, author Nina George, said, “The European Writers’ Council warmly congratulates the nominees and winners of this year’s European Union Prize for Literature. We thank you for your tirelessness to observe and tell about the world. You’re not only the sources of the book value chain, but your works are the sources of democracy, cultural exchange, and a diverse European community.

“The EUPL 2021 is a special prize: it marks the beginning of a still unclear time ‘after.’ Let us enter these post-crisis years with optimism and accept the challenge to continue writing–and awarding–literature that’s as diverse, surprising, or unusual as possible.”

Peter Kraus vom Cleff

Peter Kraus vom Cleff, president of the Federation of European Publishers, said, “I firmly hope that the 2021 EUPL laureates will be able to meet their audiences presently in their counties and in the future all over Europe and beyond.

“Whether in person or online, the label EUPL has attracted many publishers and encouraged translations.

“Each translation is a vivid proof of Europe’s rich, diverse, and fascinating creative publishing landscape. The famous European writer and thinker Umberto Eco said ‘Translation is the language of Europe.’ I would paraphrase him in saying that ‘Translation is the language of empathy.’ I’m proud and happy that so many previous EUPL laureates have been translated into various European languages, finding new readers. And this is what I sincerely wish to the 2021 laureates.”

Jean Luc Treutenaere

Jean-Luc Treutenaere, co-president of the European and International Booksellers Association, said, “The past year has been very difficult and challenging for many of us. Faced with a pandemic and the loss of access to many of our favorite and comforting cultural places, books have offered us solace, escape, and adventures.

“Being able to read diverse novels, from various linguistic and cultural backgrounds, is a great way to interact and get to know new characters, habits, and local cultures from the safety of our homes.

“The European Union Prize for Literature offers just that, and I’m very pleased to offer my congratulations, on behalf of the European and International Booksellers Federation, to the 13 winning authors for this year. I am looking forward to exploring the worlds they’ve created and finding their novels on the bookshelves in bookshops across Europe.”

Here’s the digital announcement of the winners,

More from Publishing Perspectives on international publishing and book awards is here. And more on Europe is here

More from Publishing Perspectives on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.