The first European Prize for Literature, “[a] European Prize for emerging talents in the field of contemporary fiction“, was awarded September 28, 2009, to 12 authors from 12 European countries – with 12 more authors from 12 other European countries to be selected in 2010, and 11 more authors from the remaining 11 other European countries to be selected in 2011. The announcing press release stated:
“The names of twelve European authors to receive the first ever European Union Prize for Literature were announced today by the European Commission, the European Booksellers Federation (EBF), the European Writers’ Council (EWC) and the Federation of European Publishers (FEP)…. In recognition of his oeuvre and literary success Henning Mankell, the well-known and bestselling Swedish author, has accepted the role of Ambassador of the European Union Prize for Literature for this year.” [links added by this blog]
The idea, at the onset of this award, is for the prize to work as a medium of activation for European culture and to “highlight and promote the full diversity of European literature.” After each European country has been honored at least once, the award is likely to be reduced to only a few authors, but from our point of view we definitely find the current process to be far more favorable. Very few books, in spite of their literary quality, span all cultures, so that a limited award necessarily involves national prejudices as to content, style and language.
For example, a universally-acclaimed book – not eligible for this award -like the 1995 Der Vorleser (The Reader) by German law professor and judge Bernhard Schlink is very rare. It was the first German book ever to reach the top of the New York Times Best-Seller Lists and last year the book was even made into a very successful Hollywood movie – The Reader. But most fiction is limited by the audience of the nation in which the author is located
This European literary award was presented at a gala ceremony in Brussels, Belgium, attended by ca. 800 dignitaries, including European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The works that received the prize are detailed at this .pdf.
Hat tip to Leigh Phillips at the EU Observer.