The Central European Forum takes place in Bratislava from November 15 to 18 and there are a host of writers from the region taking part, including Serbia’s Vladimir Arsenijević, Slovenia’s Drago Jančar (last year’s European Literature Prize winner – more below), Hungary’s György Konrád, Czech Jáchym Topol, Poland’s Andrzej Stasiuk and many more.
The conference is organized into some cool-sounding and atypical panels, with titles like Lies, Hatred, Stupidity, Love, Fear, Protest. The forum’s site also contains an editorial by weekly Respekt editor Martin M. Šimečka on the fragile state of democracy. You can read the full program in PDF here.
Vladimir Makanin wins European Lit Prize
By way of Literary Saloon word that Russian writer Vladimir Makanin has been awarded this year’s European Prize for Literature. Though a few of Makanin’s novels have been translated into English he has not received widespread recognition and I have to admit to never having heard of him.
For a nice, quirky introduction to Makanin go to Read.Russia. Go here to read a Makanin short story on Words Without Borders, “The Brother’s Keeper.” And for reviews of two short Makanin novels go to Lizok’s Bookshelf.
The official prize website is peculiar to say the least, announcing the main prize in English and everything else in French (French-speakers presumably not being interested in European so much as Alsatian writing). Then if you click on the link to “Russie” below Makanin’s name (alternatively given in French and English transliterations) you are sent to a page that says “Russie” and is otherwise blank (as it is for the UK under 2010 winner Tony Harrison, and for Slovenia). Actually, it’s not totally blank. Those Eurocrats think of everything and make sure to include “Texte © Tous droits réservés.”
This should actually concern many European writers, because if an official body can copyright a blank page then I’m afraid many of us are guilty of plagiarism.
While I definitely applaud the attention prizes like this bring to writers like Makanin, who presumably need it among English-language readers at least, I’m a little skeptical of the prize website’s statement that the “best way to contribute to a better mutual knowledge of the peoples of Europe is to pay homage to the great contemporary figures of their literature: the ‘Goethe’, ‘Shakespeare.’” Sorry, I just don’t see that working, not to mention whether or not these prizes identify the Goethes and Shakespeares among us.
Photo – Jáchym Topol at Central European Forum, photo by Peter Župník