The aim of the European Union Prize for Literature (EUPL) is to put the spotlight on the creativity and diverse wealth of Europe’s contemporary literature in the field of fiction, to promote the circulation of literature within Europe and to encourage greater interest in non-national literary works.
The works of the selected winners (one per country participating in the Prize on a rotation basis) will reach a wider and international audience, and touch readers beyond national and linguistic borders.
The Prize is financed by the Creative Europe programme of the European Commission, which aims to achieve three main goals: to promote cross-border mobility of those working in the cultural sector; to encourage the transnational circulation of cultural and artistic output; and to foster intercultural dialogue.
The Prize competition is open to the 36 countries currently involved in the Creative Europe programme. Each year, national juries in a third of the participating countries nominate their winning authors, making it possible for all countries and language areas to be represented over a three-year cycle.
Bianca Bellová (2017)
Bianca Bellová, born in Prague in 1970, is a translator, interpreter and writer with Bulgarian roots. Her first book, Sentimentální román (Sentimental Novel), came out in 2009 and describes the trials of growing up near the end of the communist totalitarian regime. Two years later, the publisher Host brought out the novella Mrtvý muž (Dead Man), which impressed critics. In 2013, Bellová’s novella Celý den se nic nestane (Nothing Happens All Day) was published. The title both reflects and does not reflect reality: until the evening nothing much happens, but the reader is able to reconstruct the underlying stories. Her most recent book, nominated for the EUPL, is the novel Jezero (The Lake, 2016).
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. And what about Nami? Nami doesn’t have anything but a granny with fat arms. However, he does have a life ahead of him – a first love that is taken from him by Russian soldiers, and then all the rest of it. But if a life can begin at the very end of the world, maybe it can end at the beginning. This story is as old as humanity itself. 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.
Jan Němec (2014)
source: EUPL, photo: Anna Nádvorníková
Jan Němec, born in 1981 in Brno, received his MA degree in Religious and Social Studies from Masaryk University in Brno, and in Theatre Dramaturgy from the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno. He wrote a book of poems První život (First Life, 2007), followed by a book of short-stories Hra pro čtyři ruce (Playing Four Hands, 2009) and a biographical novel about renowned photographer František Drtikol, called Dějiny světla (A History of Light, 2013). Němec works as an editor for the monthly literary magazine Host, and as a dramaturgist for the ČT Art TV channel.
A novel about the photographer František Drtikol.
Have you ever wondered what a story written by a beam of light would be like? Firstly, the story would be ordinary but the course of events extraordinary; secondly, its hero would be a photographer, a guardian of light; thirdly, naturally, it would be full of shadow. So who was František Drtikol? A dandy from a small mining town, a world-famous photographer whose business went bankrupt, a master of the nude who never had much luck with women, a mystic and a Buddhist who believed in communism, a man of many contradictions. The conception of Jan Němec’s extensive novel is very unusual for contemporary Czech prose – fresco-like, it is an artistic and spiritual Bildungsroman that covers over half a century, bringing to life the silver mines of Přibram, Jugendstil Munich and First Republic Bohemianism, with naked models wandering along the lines and light merging unobserved with knowledge...
Tomáš Zmeškal (2011)
Tomáš Zmeškal, born in 1966 in Prague, studied English language and literature, and he lived and studied in London for a number of years. In the 1980s, he played for a while in the band Psí vojáci, led by writer and musician Filip Topol. He works as a writer, translator and a secondary-school teacher of English literature. Although he had earlier published short stories, he came to wider attention mainly through his first novel, Milostný dopis klínovým písmem (Love Letter in Cunieform Script, 2008), which describes the post-war world of 1950s Czechoslovakia from a postmodern, fragmented perspective. For this novel, he was shortlisted for the Magnesia Litera Prize and was awarded the Josef Škvorecký Award.
Milostný dopis klínovým písmem (A Love Letter in Cuneiform Script)
Tomáš Zmeškal’s debut novel, Milostný dopis klínovým písmem, is both a history and a love story, which touches on moral issues, myths and science fiction. This family saga might also be seen as a collage or a mosaic.The main plot is set in Czechoslovakia between the 1940s and the 1990s and its narrative concerns the tragic stories of one family. Josef meets his wife, Květa, before the Second World War at a public lecture on Hittite culture. Květa chooses Josef over their mutual friend Hynek. At the beginning of the 50s, Hynek starts work as a police investigator and, when Josef is arrested and imprisoned, Květa gives herself to Hynek in return for help and advice. The story of Josef and Květa isn’t set out in chronological order and so, in the very first chapter, we find ourselves at the end of the 60s when their daughter, Alice, is about to get married. At the end of the novel we meet Josef, his life in danger, in a West Bohemian forest during the last days of the war. This is a work with a thoughtfully considered structure. Several chapters contain stories from other eras and other lands - these fantasies point to the finality and uniqueness of every human life.