By Peter Stevenson
CYPRIOT writer Emilios Solomou was one of the 12 winners of this year’s European Union Prize for Literature, recognising the best emerging authors in Europe.
The names of the winners were announced on Thursday at the opening of the Göteborg Book Fair in Sweden by Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.
Solomou wrote ‘The Diary of an Infidelity’ which was published last year by Psichogios Publications. He was born in 1971 in Nicosia and grew up in the village of Potami. He studied history and archaeology at the University of Athens and also studied journalism in Cyprus and worked for a daily newspaper for several years. He now teaches Greek and history in a public high school.
One of his previous novels, An Axe in Your Hands, won the Cyprus State Prize for Literature. He has also written many short-stories, which have been published in literary magazines.
‘The Diary of an Infidelity’ is a novel about time, destruction, memory and love. Yiorgos Doukarelis is an archaeologist and professor, who returns to an island, 20 years after the excavation that made him famous – the discovery of the remains of a young pregnant woman murdered 5 000 years ago. At the time of the trip, he is having an affair with one of his students, Antigoni, who he later marries after divorcing his wife. His return to the island comes six months after the mysterious disappearance of Antigoni. Yiorgos finds himself exploring the secret ties that connect him with the three women in his life, moving from the present to the past.
“My warmest congratulations go to all of this year’s winners,” said Vassiliou. “The European Union Prize for Literature draws international attention to fantastic new or emerging authors, who might otherwise not gain the recognition they deserve outside their home country. As well as helping these writers to reach new audiences, our aim is to introduce readers to great new European literature and offer them more choice. This can also contribute, in the long term, to creating a genuine European readership, with nearly half a billion potential readers,” Vassiliou said.
Each winner receives €5,000 and more importantly, their publishers are encouraged to apply for EU funding to have the winning books translated into other European languages. The European Union Prize for Literature (EUPL) is open to 37 countries which are part of the current EU Culture Programme (28 EU Member States as well as Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Turkey). Each year, national juries in a third of the countries nominate the winning authors, so that all are represented over a three year period.
This year’s winners will be presented with their awards at a ceremony in Brussels on
November 26 in the presence of Vassiliou and leading representatives from the world of literature, culture and politics. The EUPL is organised by the European Commission with the European and International Booksellers’ Federation (EIBF), the
European Writers’ Council (EWC) and the Federation of European Publishers (FEP).
“Once again, I am thrilled to discover new talents and I wish to express my warmest congratulations to all of this year’s winners. Booksellers are delighted that the EUPL Prize helps literature cross borders and are looking forward to offering readers more choice, more books, more European literature,” said John McNamee, President of the EIBF.
Pirjo Hiidenmaa, President of the EWC, said that Europe needs stories and storytellers, and there is an endless demand for books on eternal topics. “Writers bring vital sparks to minds and languages, and only change keeps cultures alive; therefore, it is always a joy to celebrate new literary voices assuring us that culture keeps growing and changing,” she said.
“I am very pleased that our organisation takes such an active part in the European Union Prize for Literature. Thanks to this Prize, we discover new worlds, new cultures, through the work of the talented winning authors. I hope that the 2013 winners will get as many translations as they deserve – it is a fantastic way to celebrate the diversity of Europe, a value we should cherish in those times of crisis,” added Piotr Marciszuk, President of FEP.
Romania will receive a special focus at this year’s Göteborg Book Fair. Vassiliou participated in the opening ceremony on Thursday morning with Mircea Cărtărescu, the acclaimed Romanian poet, novelist and essayist.