The jury of the Angelus Central European Literary Prize has named Svetlana Alexievich the winner of the 2011 competition for War's Unwomanly Face
The Polish edition of Alexievich's book War's Unwomanly Face (Wojna nie ma w sobie nic z kobiety, translated by Jerzy Czech, published by Czarne, Wołowiec) tells the stories of dozens of women who fought during World War II. For 20 years the author trailed the women soldiers to hear 500 personal histories, many dramatic, unexpected and tragic ones.
She quoted Dostoyevsky in receiving the award, calling Central European Prizes of "a single insanity, the instanity of socialism", adding that today "tragedy and beauty go side by side - and that is what is terrible".
Alexievich was born in the Ukraine to a Belarusian father and a Ukrainian mother. She grew up in Belarus. She worked as a journalist and news correspondent, reporting on some of the most violent events in the history of Belarus and the Soviet Union - from World War II, Civil Wars in the region and the Chernobyl incident. She has been an avid critic of Lukaszenko's government and today resides in Paris, maintaining the voice of opposition from a distance.
Of her award-winning book (it also received the 2011 Ryszard Kapuściński Award for literary reportage) earlier this year, Alexievich has said:
It was a huge subject! There was only the male canon of writing about war. More than five thousand wars, and almost every one described from the male point of view. Take one scene. I was looking for a woman at the Minsk tractor factory who had been a sharpshooter. A great one. I went to the department staff and I heard from the director: 'Are there not enough men? Why listen to those stories? Those fantasies?
- Alexievich in an interview for Gazeta Wyborcza.
Among the fourteen semi-finalists, there were seven books by Polish authors, two by Belarus writers and one from Germany, Slovenia, Albania, Russia and Ukraine.
The Angelus Central European Literary Award is presented for the best book published in the Polish language in a precedent year, given by the city of Wrocław since 2006. Publishers may enter works of living authors who come from 21 countries of Central Europe. The award consists of the Angelus statuette designed by Ewa Rossano and a cheque for PLN 150,000. The price in the amount of PLN 20,000 is also awarded to the translator of the winning work, which is co-financed by Angelus Silesius State Higher Vocational School in Wałbrzych.
Previous winners of the Angelus Award include: György Spiró for the novel Mesjasze / The Messiahs (2010, translated by Elżbieta Cygielska), Josef Škvorecky for Przypadki inżyniera ludzkich dusz / The Engineer of Human Souls (2009, translated by Andrzej Jagodziński), Péter Esterházy for Harmonia cælestis (2008, translated by Teresa Worowska), Martin Pollack for Śmierć w bunkrze - opowieść o moim ojcu / Death in a Shelter – Story About My Father (2007, translated by Andrzej Kopacki), Jurij Andruchowycz for Dwanaście kręgów / Twelfth Circles (2006, translated by Katarzyna Kotyńska).
The Angelus Literary Award jury panel features the following jury members each year:
Natalia Gorbaniewska (born in 1936) - Russian poet, journalist, translator of Polish literature; activist of the human rights movement. Since 1976 she has lived in Paris. Since 1999 she has been the member of the editorial board of Nowaja Polsza monthly. In 2010 she received Polish citizenship.
Stanisław Bereś (born in 1950) – literary historian, critic, essayist, poet and translator. Professor of Polish Studies and Journalism at University of Wrocław.
Piotr Kępiński (born in 1964) – poet, literary critic. His collection of essays on contemporary Polish literature will be released this year. Currently, he is the head of the culture department at the Polish edition of Newsweek.
Julian Kornhauser (born in 1946) – poet, novelist, literary critic, translator of Serbian and Croatian literature. Co-founder and member of the Kraków poetic group “Teraz”; one of the most outstanding representatives of the New Wave movement. Jagiellonian University Professor; Chair of the Croatian, Serbian and Slovenian Department at the Institute of Slavonic Studies.
Ryszard Krynicki (born in 1943) – poet, translator, publisher. One of the most outstanding artists of the New Wave movement and Polish contemporary poetry. In 1988 he co-founded Wydawnictwo a5 publishing house specialising mostly in contemporary poetry.
Tomasz Łubieński (born in 1938) – playwright, novelist, essayist and journalist. Since 1989 he has been the editor-in-chief of Nowe Książki monthly.
Krzysztof Masłoń (born in 1953) – journalist, literary critic associated with Rzeczpospolita daily; book reviewer for this newspaper and commentator of the best-selling list of Magazyn Literacki Książki literary journal.
Justyna Sobolewska (born in 1972) – literary critic, journalist. Currently she works as a journalist for Polityka weekly. Co-host of Czytelnia talk show on books on TVP Kultura channel.
Mirosław Spychalski (born in 1959) – novelist, journalist, critic, author of documentary films. Currently, he works as a journalist for TVP Polish Public Television, where he co-produces with Stanisław Bereś Telewizyjne Wiadomości Literackie (TVP 2 Channel), and as a literary critic for Dziennik. Gazeta Prawna daily.
Andrzej Zawada (born in 1948) – literary historian, critic, essayist, author of radio programmes, editor. University of Wrocław Professor; Chair of the Journalism and Social Communication Department; Member of the Literary Studies Committee at Polish Academy of Sciences; Chairman of the Programming Board of the Wrocław Polish Radio.
Source: PAP, www.angelus.com.pl