Ukraine’s ‘The Orphanage’ Wins the 2022 European Bank Prize

In News by Porter Anderson

Yale University Press’ publication of Serhiy Zhadan’s book is translated by Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler.

In Kyiv’s subway station Teremki, May 20. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Vlada Z

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

Author and Translators Share €20,000
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was created in 1991 to assist project financing in the wake of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Its international literature award program was established in 2017 in cooperation with the British Council.

Its EBRD Literature Prize, based in London, was opened in 2017 to bring to light, as the organization puts it, “the literary richness of our regions of operations, which include almost 40 countries stretching from Morocco to Mongolia, Estonia to Egypt.”

And its fifth annual award has just been announced as going to Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan and translators Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler for The Orphanage from Yale University Press (February 2021). The translators are credited on the cover of the book.

This award’s €20,000 purse (US$20,842) is then being split between Zhaden, Costigan-Humes, and Wheeler, for this story set in eastern Ukraine about a 35-year-old language teacher who tries to rescue a nephew from an orphanage in the country’s combat zones. The book was chosen by The New York Times as one of six books to read for context on Ukraine.

In the independent jury’s rationale, chair Toby Lichtig write, “A schoolteacher travels across the war-torn Donbas in Ukraine to pick up his nephew from a residential school. The pair then travel back home together.

“Belying the simplicity of this storyline is Serhiy Zhadan’s extraordinary, explosive, tender, angry, and poetic novel of a country riven by conflict, and the absurdities, banalities, horrors and moments of human connection that war occasions.

“The Orphanage was timely when it first appeared in Ukrainian in 2017, it was timely when it first appeared in Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler’s excellent translation last year, and it is even more grimly timely now.”

The two runners up titles for the EBRD Literature Prize 2022—receiving €8,000 (US$8,336) to split between their authors and translators—are The Book of Katerina by Auguste Corteau, translated from Greek by Claire Papamichail (Parthian Books); and Boat Number Five by Monika Kompaníková, translated from Slovak by Janet Livingstone (Seagull Books).

The honored writers and translators took part in a digital ceremony Monday (June 13), with Lichtig and his fellow jury members Alex Clkark and Kathryn Murphy in discussion. There was a fourth juror this year, Boris Dralyuk.

The EBRD Literature Prize 2022 Shortlist

The shortlist for the prize this year comprise 10 titles, which were announced on March 23:

  • Doctor Bianco and Other Stories by Maciek Bielawski, translated by Scotia Gilroy (Terra Librorum Ltd)
    Language: Polish
    Country: Poland
  • Birds of Verhovina by Adam Bodor, translated by Peter Sherwood (Jantar Publishing Ltd)
    Language: Hungarian
    Country: Hungary
  • The Book of Katerina by Auguste Corteau, translated by Claire Papamichail (Parthian Books)
    Language: Greek
    Country: Greece
  • Red Crosses by Sasha Filipenko, translated by Brian James Baer and Ellen Vayner (Europa Editions UK)
    Language: Russian
    Country: Belarus
  • City of Torment by Daniela Hodrova, translated by Veronique Firkusny and Elena Sokol (Jantar Publishing Ltd)
    Language: Czech
    Country: Czech Republic
  • Manaschi by Hamid Ismailov, translated by Donald Rayfield (Tilted Axis Press)
    Language: Uzbek
    Country: Uzbekistan
  • Boat Number Five by Monika Kompaníková, translated by Janet Livingstone (Seagull Books)
    Language: Slovak
    Country: Slovak Republic
  • Karolina, or the Torn Curtain by Maryla Szymiczkowa (Jacek Dehnel/ Piotr Tarczynski), translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Oneworld Publications)
    Language: Polish
    Country: Poland
  • Just the Plague by Ludmila Ulitskaya, translated by Polly Gannon (Granta)
    Language: Russian
    Country: Russian Federation
  • The Orphanage by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by Reilly Costigan-Humes and Issac Stackhouse Wheeler (Yale University Press)
    Language: Ukrainian
    Country: Ukraine

Works submitted for to the EBRD Literature Prize program for 2022 had to be works of translated literary fiction (which can include a short story collection by a single author), translated into English and written originally in any language of an EBRD country of operations by an author who is or has been a citizen of an EBRD country.

The winner of the first EBRD Literature Prize in 2018 was Istanbul, Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez, an author many Publishing Perspectives readers know as a longtime client of literary agent Nermin Mollaoğlu at the Kalem agency. Sönmez now is serving as president of PEN International and spoke near the end of May at the inaugural WEXFO, the World Expression Forum, in Lillehammer.

This is Publishing Perspectives’ 108th awards-related report produced in the 110 publication days since our 2022 operations began on January 3.

Follow our coverage of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and its impact on the country’s publishing players and international industry reactions. 

More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here, more content relative to LGBTQ issues is here, and more on the US market is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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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.