World Literature: Prize Readings

Bookshop display showing books from Nora Ikstena, Olga Tokarczuk and Hamid Ismailov.

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Celebrate an international literature prize with a difference

We ignore the international novel at our peril: current circumstances serve to highlight once again why we must embrace different cultures and languages. The EBRD Literature Prize helps to improve the vocabulary of our literary narrative and access opens the eyes and minds of readers. A new shape of the novel may result.

The 2019 EBRD Literature Prize has been established by the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to celebrate the best fiction in translation from the 38 territories where the bank invests, from Morocco to Mongolia, Estonia to Egypt. 

Join the six shortlisted authors and translators Nora Ikstena with Margita Gaelitis, Hamid Ismailov with Donald Rayfield and John Farndon, and Olga Tokarczuk with Antonia Lloyd-Jones for an evening of readings, debate and conversation, hosted by Chair of the Judging Panel, Rosie Goldsmith

The winning book, to be announced on Thursday 7 March, will be awarded €20,000, split evenly between the author and the translator, and the two runner-up titles will receive €2,000, similarly divided.

Nora Ikstena is nominated for Soviet Milk, translated by Margita Gailitis. Nora is one of the most visible and influential prose writers in Latvia. She published her first novel, Celebration of Life, in 1998 and has written over twenty books since. She has won numerous awards, such as the Order of the Three Stars for Services to Literature and the Baltic Assembly Prize. Soviet Milk, (Peirene Press) her most recent novel, won the 2015 Annual Latvian Literature Award (LALIGABA) for Best Prose. She has also helped establish the Latvian Literature Centre.

Margita Gailitis is a poet and translator. She has translated some of Latvia’s finest poetry and prose into English, including Sandra Kalniete’s With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snow and Māra Zālīte’s Five Fingers. Gailitis’ own poetry has been widely published and has won her awards from both the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

Hamid Ismailov is nominated for The Devils’ Dance translated from Uzbek by Donald Rayfield (with John Farndon). Hamid is an Uzbek journalist and writer who came to the United Kingdom in 1992 and took a job with the BBC World Service. Several of his Russian-original novels have been published in English translation, including The Railway, The Dead Lake, which was longlisted for the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and The Underground. The Devils’ Dance, published by Tilted Axis Press is the first of his Uzbek novels to appear in English.

Donald Rayfield is Emeritus Professor of Russian and Georgian at Queen Mary University of London. He is an author of books about Russian and Georgian literature, and about Joseph Stalin and his secret police. He is also a series editor for books about Russian writers and intelligentsia. He has translated a wide variety of Georgian and Russian poets and prose writers.

John Farndon is currently Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow in Residence at the City and Guilds of London Art School. John is a writer of non-fiction books, and a playwright, lyricist, composer, poet and literary translator. He has translated literary works from Russian, including the poetry of Pushkin and Grigorieva, and the lyrical memoir, Letters to Another Room by Ravil Bukharaev.

Olga Tokarczuk is nominated for Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. Olga is one of Poland’s best and most beloved authors. Her novel Flights won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize, in Jennifer Croft’s translation. In 2015 she received the Brueckepreis and the prestigious annual literary award from Poland’s Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, as well as Poland’s highest literary honour, the Nike and the Nike Readers’ Prize. Tokarczuk also received a Nike in 2009 for Flights. She is the author of nine novels, three short story collections and has been translated into thirty languages.

Antonia Lloyd-Jones translates from Polish, and was the 2018 winner of the Transatlantyk Award for the most outstanding promoter of Polish literature abroad. She has translated works by several of Poland’s leading contemporary novelists and reportage authors, as well as crime fiction, poetry and children’s books. She is a mentor for the Emerging Translators’ Mentorship Programme, and former co-chair of the UK Translators Association.

The judging panel

Rosie Goldsmith (Chair of the Judging Panel) is an award-winning journalist specializing in arts and foreign affairs. In 20 years at the BBC, she presented several flagship programmes. Today she combines journalism with chairing and curating literary events and festivals for leading cultural organisations. Known as a champion of international literature, translation and language learning, she promotes them whenever she can. She is Founder and Director of the European Literature Network.

Gabriel Gbadamosi (Judge) is a poet, playwright, and novelist. His London novel Vauxhall(2013) won the Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize and Best International Novel at the Sharjah Book Fair. He was a presenter of the arts and ideas programme Night Waves on BBC Radio 3, a director of Wasafiri magazine for international contemporary writing and is a trustee of Arcola Theatre, London. 

Ted Hodgkinson (Judge) is an editor, critic, writer and Senior Programmer for Literature and Spoken Word at the Southbank Centre, where he oversees the literature programme. He has previously judged the BBC National Short Story Award (2016), the British Book Awards (Debut of the Year, 2016) and the Costa Book Awards (Poetry, 2012). In 2017 he was named in The Bookseller’s list of the 100 most influential people in publishing.

Samantha Schnee (Judge) is the Founding Editor of Words Without Borders, dedicated to publishing the world's best literature translated into English. She previously worked for Andrew Wylie as his assistant, then for Francis Coppola, launching his literary magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story. She currently serves as secretary of the American Literary Translators Association. She also chairs PEN America’s Heim Translation Grants jury and is a trustee of English PEN.


Name: World Literature: Prize Readings
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
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