Winners of the 2012 European Union Prize for Literature announced at Frankfurt Book Fair

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European Commission

Press release

Frankfurt/Brussels, 9 October 2012

Winners of the 2012 European Union Prize for Literature announced at Frankfurt Book Fair

The winners of the 2012 European Union Prize for Literature, which recognises the best new or emerging authors in the EU, were announced today at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The winners are: Anna Kim (Austria), Lada Žigo (Croatia), Laurence Plazenet (France), Viktor Horváth (Hungary), Kevin Barry (Ireland), Emanuele Trevi (Italy), Giedra Radvilavičiūtė (Lithuania), Gunstein Bakke (Norway), Piotr Paziński (Poland), Afonso Cruz (Portugal), Jana Beňová (Slovakia) and Sara Mannheimer (Sweden). Each winner (see details below) receives € 5 000 and, more importantly, priority for funding from the EU Culture Programme to get their book translated into other languages.

"My warmest congratulations go to all of this year's winners. We hope that the Prize will increase their visibility and renown, both inside and outside their home countries. Ensuring that literature crosses borders is not only good for authors and publishers, who want to reach new markets; it is also great for readers who have more choice and are exposed to works which they might never otherwise have come across. Our new Creative Europe programme will enable us to provide even more support for writers and cultural diversity in future," said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.

The European Union Prize for Literature is open to the 37 countries involved in the EU Culture Programme (27 EU Member States as well as Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Turkey). Each year, national juries in a third of the countries nominate the winner authors, so that all countries in the programme are represented over a three-year period.

Since the Prize was launched in 2009, the EU Culture Programme has provided funding for 32 of the winners to have their books translated into different languages. To date, more than 100 translations in total, covering 19 languages, have received EU funding. The winners also benefit from extra visibility at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the London Book Fair and the Passaporta festival in Brussels.

This year's winners will be presented with their awards and celebrated at a ceremony in Brussels on 22 November, in the presence of Commissioner Vassiliou and leading representatives of the worlds of literature, culture and politics. This Prize is organised by the European Commission, the European Booksellers' Federation, the European Writers' Council and the Federation of European Publishers.


The European Commission invests €3 million a year on literary translation and more than €2.4 million on cooperation projects involving the book sector. The industry contributes €23 billion to the EU's GDP and employs 135 000 people full time. Books are the second most exported cultural goods in the EU, after works of art and antiques.

Book publishing is a significant part of the cultural and creative sectors, which account for up to 4.5% of EU GDP and up to 8.5 million jobs. Although these sectors have proved relatively resilient in the crisis, they also face considerable challenges stemming from the digital shift, globalisation and market fragmentation along cultural and linguistic lines.

The Commission has proposed a new programme called Creative Europe to strengthen the competitiveness of these sectors and to promote cultural diversity. The Commission envisages a total budget of €1.8 billion for Creative Europe in the period 2014-2020, which represents a 37% increase compared with current funding levels. The programme will provide funding for the translation of more than 5 000 books; it will also support 8 000 cultural organisations and enable 300 000 artists, cultural professionals and their works to operate across borders and gain international experience (IP/11/1399).

On 26 September, they Commission unveiled a strategy entitled 'Promoting cultural and creative sectors for growth and jobs in the EU'. The aim is to increase the export potential of these sectors, as well as to maximise their spill-over benefits for other areas such as innovation, ICT and urban regeneration. The strategy calls for measures to boost skills development, access to finance, promotion of new business models, audience development, access to international markets and improved links to other sectors (IP/12/1012).

Winning authors and their books

Anna Kim (Austria)

Anna Kim was born in 1977 in Daejeon, South Korea. In 1979, the family moved to Germany. She studied Philosophy and Theatre Studies at the University of Vienna. She has published several short stories, essays and poems as well as three novels, including Die gefrorene Zeit, which has been translated into English and Albanian. She lives in Vienna.

  • Die gefrorene Zeit (Frozen Time)

The narrator of Anna Kim’s novel is a relatively inexperienced researcher working for a Red Cross agency assisting people from the former Yugoslavia in their search for lost relatives. In helping a man from Kosovo, whose wife disappeared during the war, she is confronted with the gruesome results of work by forensic archaeologists, medics and anthropologists. She is gradually drawn into the fate of her client on a personal level and accompanies him to Kosovo, where she sees the results of the conflict first hand.

Lada Žigo (Croatia)

Lada Žigo was born in 1970 in Zagreb. She graduated in Comparative Literature and Philosophy from the University of Zagreb. She has written literary reviews and essays for many newspapers and cultural and literary magazines and runs a literary panel for the Croatian Writers’ Association. Her first book, Ljudi i novinari (People and News People) came out in 2007 and was shortlisted for two literary awards. Rulet (Roulette) is her third novel. Lada Žigo is a member of the Croatian Writers' Association and the Croatian Freelance Artists Organization. She lives and works in Zagreb.

  • Rulet (Roulette)

Rulet is a novel exploring how gambling can become the only hope for people living in a society with no prospects. The main character is a soldier who starts to gamble after becoming disillusioned with Serbian and Croatian leaders, who he sees as criminals. At the same time, he blames the 'Americanisation' of culture and language for weakening his country's sovereignty and destroying people's jobs on the altar of liberal capitalism. He turns to playing roulette, a game that becomes one of destiny in which he can win or lose all.

Laurence Plazenet (France)

Laurence Plazenet was born in Paris in 1968. A former student at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, she is a Classic Literature ‘agrégée’ and holds a PhD in literature. She started her career as a Sorbonne professor and studied at Princeton in 1994. She then worked as an academic for 10 years before publishing her first novel, L’amour seul. She has since written two other books, La Blessure et la soif, and Disproportion de l’homme. A lecturer in French Literature at Paris-Sorbonne, a member of the French National Centre for Scientific Research and the Institut Universitaire de France, and a vice-chair of the Societé des Amis de Port-Royal, Plazenet is currently writing her fourth novel.

  • L’amour seul (Love Alone)

Louise Catherine d’Albrecht is 15 when she meets her tutor Monsieur de Ramon. They become secret lovers until her father forces her to leave the city to return to the countryside. Later, back in Paris, she hopes her lover will find her again, but he fails to return. Full of anxiety and piety, she dedicates her life to her studies and writes her first book. De Ramon returns and they rekindle their love, but, feeling old and not worthy of his lover, he decides to leave her. She endures a one-way correspondence with him, ending her life in asceticism, sharpened by the ghost of desire.

Viktor Horváth (Hungary)

Viktor Horváth was born in 1962 in Pécs. Between 2003 and 2006, he studied for his PhD at the University of Miskolc. Since 2003, he has been teaching the theory of poetic structure and the history of form in medieval and late-medieval times at the University of Pécs. He translates texts into English, German and Spanish.

  • Török tükör (Turkish Mirror)

Török tükör takes the reader on an adventurous journey back to 16th century Hungary, when the country was still a new suzerainty of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. The novel describes an unstable borderland situated between two empires, a colourful cavalcade of calendars, languages, sacred writings, kings and emperors, mighty sultans, Hungarian nobles and Ottoman beys, merchants, village magistrates, and - from time to time - even angels, 'djinns' and peculiar flying machines.

Kevin Barry (Ireland)

Kevin Barry was born in Limerick in 1969. He spent much of his youth travelling, accumulating 17 addresses by the time he was 36. He lived variously in Cork, Santa Barbara, Barcelona and Liverpool before settling in Sligo. He has written for many publications, including the Sunday Herald, the Irish Examiner, The Guardian, The Irish Times and The Sydney Morning Herald. His short fiction has appeared widely on both sides of the Atlantic. He was awarded the 2007 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature for his debut collection of short stories, There Are Little Kingdoms, which was published by Stinging Fly Press, Dublin. He was the 2012 winner of the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award.

  • City of Bohane

Forty years in the future, the once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is on its knees, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. There are posh parts of Bohane, but it is in the slums and backstreets of Smoketown, the tower blocks of the Northside Rises and the eerie bogs of Big Nothin' that the city really lives. For years, Bohane has been in the grip of Logan Hartnett, the dapper godfather of the Hartnett Fancy gang. But his trusted henchmen are getting ambitious, and his missus wants him to give it all up and go straight. And then there's his mother...

Emanuele Trevi (Italy)

Emanuele Trevi was born in Rome in 1964. He is a writer and literature critic. He was creative director of the publisher Fazi and has also edited an anthology with Marco Lodoli. Trevi has written many essays on poets and writers, including a work on the poet Pietro Tripodo which won the Sandro Onofri Prize. He is currently working for Rai 3 Radio on the programme Lucifer. He has written for magazines including Il Caffè Illustrato and Nuovi Argomenti, and national newspapers including La Repubblica, La Stampa, and Il Manifesto.

  • Qualcosa di scritto (Something Written)

Rome, in the early Nineties. A writer in his 30s, cynical and naive, finds work in an archive, the Fund Pier Paolo Pasolini, where he meets a shrewish old woman called Laura Betti. The encounter with the mad heroine of this book is in a way an encounter with Pasolini himself. Meanwhile, a hidden story in Petrolio, the unfinished novel by Pasolini, becomes a guide to the disenchantment of our time and the mysteries of life.

Giedra Radvilavičiūtė (Lithuania)

Radvilavičiūtė is pseudonym for Giedra Subačienė, who was born in 1960 in Panevėžys, Lithuania. After finishing secondary school, she graduated from Vilnius University with a degree in Lithuanian language and literature. She initially worked as a school teacher in her native region before becoming a journalist in Vilnius. From 1994 to 1998 she lived in Chicago, where her husband Giedrius Subačius was teaching at the university. She now lives in Vilnius and works at a government institution as a language editor.

  • Šiąnakt aš miegosiu prie sienos (Tonight I Shall Sleep by the Wall)

These short stories mostly deal with everyday occurrences, seemingly insignificant experiences and perceptions. Some of the stories focus on a middle-aged woman, living with her daughter in a small flat in the Old Town of Vilnius. One chapter, ‘The Allure of the Text’, lays out five criteria for a good literary work, which the author then goes on to illustrate in the unfolding story. Another story, ‘Those Whom I Would Like to Meet Again: An Introduction’, is a narrative reflection on a very diverse set of characters.

Gunstein Bakke (Norway)

Gunstein Bakke was born in 1968 in Setesdal, southern Norway. He made his debut as an author in 2000 with the novel Kontoret. All his novels have been well received, but with Maud and Aud he has finally been recognised as one of the most original voices among Norwegian authors. Bakke's thought-provoking book combines poetic language, polyphonic narrative and astute analysis. Bakke currently divides his time between Oslo and Gotland.

  • Maud og Aud: ein roman om trafikk (Maud and Aud: A Novel on Traffic)

This novel alternates between narrative flashes and poetic descriptions, containing reflections on traffic and the physical aspects of human life in a society where technology has become an increasingly important part of our lives. At the centre of the plot is a family which is devastated by a car accident in which the mother dies and the father can only live with the support of artificial body parts; twin sisters Maud and Aud survive with physical and mental scars.

Piotr Paziński (Poland)

Piotr Paziński, born in 1973, is the author of three books: a monography on James Joyce’s Ulysses, a subjective guide tracing the footsteps of Joyce's Dublin, and the novel Pensjonat, published in 2010 by the Nisza Publishing House. For this novel, he received the Paszport Polityki, the cultural award of the Polish publication Polityka. Paziński lives in Warsaw, where he works as the chief editor of the Jewish magazine Midrash, and is working on a book of short stories.

  • Pensjonat (Boarding House)

On the surface, the plot of Pensjonat is fairly straightforward, describing a day-trip by a young man to a boarding house outside Warsaw. As a small boy, he often spent time there with his granny, and he now encounters several aged guests who remember him as a child. But it is no ordinary boarding house: the residents are Jews who survived the Holocaust, so everything that occurs here is like a dream about the past, a summoning-up of ghosts, a resurrection of people, events, debates and ideological arguments from long ago.

Afonso Cruz (Portugal)

Afonso Cruz was born in Figueira da Foz in 1971. He works as a director of animation movies, illustrator, musician and writer. Cruz studied at the António Arroio Arts High School in Lisbon, at the College of Fine Arts and at the Madeira Institute of Creative Arts. His animation career includes several movies and series. In 2007, he recorded an album with his blues/roots band, The Soaked Lamb, for which he composed the music and lyrics, and played guitar, banjo and ukulele. He started his career as a fiction writer in 2008 with the novel A Carne de Deus (The Flesh of God).

  • A Boneca de Kokoschka (Kokoschka’s Doll)

This novel is a metaphor for a story of friendship, of how the Other is fundamental for our own identity. The characters include Isaac Dresner, a Jew who has developed a limp in his left foot after being traumatised by the memory of seeing his best friend killed in front of him during World War II. The reader is also introduced to Bonifaz Vogel, a man with a suspended conscience, Tsilia Kacev, an Orthodox Jew who gets stigmata, and a millionaire, Zsigmond Varga, who wants to weigh the human soul, measuring evil and sin with a hydraulic scale.

Jana Beňová (Slovakia)

Jana Beňová, born 1974, is a poet and prose writer, who graduated from the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Bratislava with a degree in theatre dramaturgy. She has written for the publications Dotyky, Fragment and Slovenské Pohľady, then as a journalist for the daily newspaper SME, writing under the name Jana Parkrová. Currently, she is an editor at the Theatre Institute in Bratislava. She debuted with a collection of poems, Svetloplachý. She is also the author of two other poetry collections, Lonochod and Nehota, a novel, Parker, and collection of short stories, Dvanásť poviedok a Ján Med.

  • Café Hyena (Plán odprevádzania) (Café Hyena (Seeing People Off)

Café Hyena is an unusual mosaic of short stories, observations, experiences and memories, amidst which emerges a relationship between a young woman and an ageing man. Its central character, Elza, lives in a huge apartment building in Petržalka, a Bratislava suburb, and decides to escape. Her journey brings captures the mood of present-day Bratislava through the viewpoint of an unusual heroine.

Sara Mannheimer (Sweden)

Sara Mannheimer grew up in Gothenburg, Sweden, and was educated in the United States, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic. She now lives in Stockholm. In addition to writing, she runs a glassworks, Stockholm Heta Glas (Stockholm Hot Glass). In 2011 and 2012, the critically-acclaimed Come Rushing, a dance-theatre work on which she collaborated with the choreographer Birgitta Egerbladh, was staged at Stockholm's Stadsteater. Reglerna, her novel from 2008, was nominated for the August Prize and won the prize for debut writers from the newspaper Borås Tidning. Handlingen was nominated for Swedish Radio's prize for novels.

  • Handlingen (The Action)

Handlingen is the story of a woman who is driven by a desire to conquer The Library, containing the entire global collection of literature. Underlying this neurotic need to control the world around her, and to master the theoretical complexity of Roland Barthes and Julia Kristeva, is her overwhelming grief over a failed pregnancy. Magic and realism are intertwined in Mannheimer's poetic writing, and she succeeds in depicting the often well-concealed fragility of everyday life, erasing the fine line between reality and imagination.

To find out more

Website of the prize:

Culture portal of the European Union

Androulla Vassiliou's website

Follow Androulla Vassiliou on Twitter @VassiliouEU

Contacts :

Dennis Abbott (+32 2 295 92 58); Twitter: @DennisAbbott

Dina Avraam (+32 2 295 96 67)

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