EU Prize for Literature


The European Union Prize for Literature, supported by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, annually honours writers whose work can "transcend borders". The aim of the prize is to draw attention to the creativity and diversity of European literature and to encourage interest in foreign works.

"The purpose of this prize is to introduce and promote European authors, especially those who are in the middle stage of their career but who have not become big names yet. Receiving the prize or even the nomination should help them gain visibility and reach European markets," explained VIKTOR DEBNÁR from the Czech Creative Europe Desk, who has been involved since the beginnings of this prize in the Czech Republic and who was in charge of setting up our first national commission. Czech authors who won this prize in the past include Tomáš Zmeškal, Jan Němec, Bianca Bellová and Lucie Faulerová.

Although the prize is intended for the total of 41 European countries, for organizational reasons only a third participate each year. This year, in addition to the Czech Republic, authors from Armenia, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Poland and Sweden competed for the prize.

The prize has been awarded since 2009, but changed its status last year. While previously each country elected its laureate, now, based on nominations from national juries, the European jury selects one overall winner and awards five special mentions. "The reason for the change is transparency of the competition, meaning there is only one winner. However, we will promote all nominated authors because all works are of high quality and should reach foreign readers. That is why we publish an anthology where everyone is represented," explained DOMENICO LA MAGNA, representative of the Federation of European Publishers.

This year the Czech Literary Centre, a section of the Moravian Library, which is in charge of the Czech national round, nominated Ondřej Štindl, whose novel ­Tolik popela defies the standards of contemporary Czech prose and can also appeal to foreign readers according the jury.

Publicist KRYŠTOF EDER who took part in the debate at Book World Prague was one of the members of the jury of the national round. "It was my first time on the jury and it was very interesting. It was important to choose a book that can appeal even to foreign readers. So we thought a lot about how the given book would be comprehensible to a person who does not know the Czech setting, whether it could still give them something. That was one of our selection criteria." 

The translation of the selected book and information about the author is forwarded by the national jury to the seven-member international jury, which is made up of professionals from the book world, agents, booksellers and people working in the book industry. However, only countries that are not competing in the given year are represented in the jury in order to avoid a conflict of interests. "It's not easy to choose a winner. We spent the whole day debating and the vote was tight. We evaluate literary qualities and focus on how universal the messages of individual authors are, the spirit and atmosphere of the book. This year, the quality was really high," said Domenico la Magna and he also highlighted the Czech nominee Ondřej Štindl and his book Tolik popela.

The winner receives EUR 5,000 and, like the nominated authors, he or she will be promoted and will have access to foreign fairs. "We want the winning work and the nominated books to reach the widest possible audience," added Domenico la Magna.

This year the winner was Croatian author MARTINA VIDAIĆ who impressed the jury with her novel Stjenice. Special mentions went to Estonia, Finland, France, Kosovo and Cyprus. The award ceremony took place on 28 April at the book fair in Leipzig.