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Ukrainian writer Kateryna Babkina wins Angelus Central European Literature Award

Kateryna Babkina. Source: zbruc.eu
Ukrainian writer Kateryna Babkina wins Angelus Central European Literature Award

Ukrainian writer Kateryna Babkina won the Angelus Central European Literature Award, presented annually in Wroclaw, Poland. She became the fourth Ukrainian winner of the award since its establishment in 2006 and the first to win the main award and the Audience Choice at the same time.

Her 2019 book My grandfather danced better than anyone else is a series of 12 short stories that form a single story of five families whose children meet on the first day of school in the first year of Ukraine’s independence and remain friends for their whole lives.

From the 1920s in Kharkiv and the destruction of the Les Kurbas Theater, through the Holodomor, World War II, the 1990s and several waves of emigration to the war in Donbas. This book is primarily about accepting the past. About how events and circumstances affect us regardless we know about them or not. About the longevity and connection of generations, the desire for love and acceptance, loneliness as a consequence or as a cause… But, most importantly, that even a lonely, rejected, broken person can also survive and live, because, in spite of everything, there is always the opportunity to become happy in the end,” one of the leading Ukrainian literary magazines Chytomo describes the book.

The Angelus award is presented annually for the best prose book published in the Polish language. The winner can be a writer from one of 22 (mostly) Central European states, namely Austria, Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Moldova, Germany, Poland, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Ukraine, Croatia, Czech Republic, and Montenegro.

The organizer and founder of the award is the city of Wroclaw. This year the prize was awarded on 16 October during the Bruno Schulz Festival, an annual literary Festival dedicated to the renowned Polish writer Bruno Schulz (1892-1942).

The ANGELUS Central European Literature Award is directly connected to the centuries-long tradition of Wroclaw as a city of meetings and dialogue, the official description of the awards says. Due to its history and location, Wroclaw has always stood as a place where various nations, cultures, and intellectual currents have overlapped. The award is presented on an annual basis to writers from Central Europe whose works undertake themes the most relevant to the present day, encourage reflection and expand the knowledge of other cultures.

Babkina as the winner will receive a statuette by Ewa Rossano and PLN 150,000 ($38,000). Polish writer and literary critic Bohdan Zadura will receive PLN 20,000 ($5,000) for translating the book from Ukrainian into Polish for Warsztaty Kultury publishing house (Lublin), which published the book last year under Polish title Nikt tak nie tańczył, jak mój dziadek. Overall Babkina is the author of 4 poetry collections, 2 books for children, and 4 novels.

The statuette-award by Ewa Rossano

Ukrainian writers were frequent winners of the award. Yuriy Andrukhovych won in 2006 with his novel Twelve Circles, Oksana Zabuzhko in 2013 with her Museum of Abandoned secrets while Serhiy Zhadan in 2015 with stories collection Mesopotamia. This year also 3 out of 7 shortlisted candidates, were Ukrainian with Babkina becoming the winner.

Kateryna Babkina and translator of her book into Polish Bohdan Zadura. Source: zbruc.eu

Additionally, the special Audience Choice Award was established in 2014. The winner is chosen accordingly to popular voting. Interestingly, this year Babkina won both the main award and the Audience Choice.

The jury choosing the main winner included Polish philologist, literary critic, professor of Wroclaw Univeristy Marcin Cieński, Polish critic and professor of Wroclaw University Urszula Glensk, Polish poet, translator and publisher Ryszard Krynicki, Polish writer, literary writer and researcher at the Polish Institute of Literary Research Anna Nasiłowska, Polish critic and researcher of literature, Professor of the Warsaw University Małgorzata Szpakowska, Polish critic and literary critic, Professor of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan Piotr Śliwiński, and the chairman of the Jury, Honorary president of Ukrainian PEN, literary critic and essayist who dedicated part of his essays and research to Ukrainian-Polish cultural ties Mykola Riabchuk.

Sometimes the opinion of experts accords with the opinion of readers. Subsequently, two awards for Kateryna Babkina,” Riabchuk wrote about rare peculiarity of this year awarding.

The Angelus awarding ceremony was broadcasted online and happened together with the awarding of the Silesius Poetry Award.

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