The Angelus Goes to Serhiy Zhadan


Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan has received the Angelus Central European Literary Award. The award came for his novel Mesopotamia, released in Poland by Czarne Publishers.

The award was given on Saturday evening during a gala ceremony at the Capitol Music Theater in Wrocław. In receiving the award, Zhadan stressed that this was a moment at which he wanted to turn attention to current issues. “There are several Ukrainian citizens who are presently being held as political prisoners in Russia. It is important that Europe remember them. I would like this attention devoted to Ukrainian literature to be focused on them,″ he said.

The novel by this Ukrainian writer is a story of the fortunes of a group of acquaintances from the same town. These are people with some life experience behind them, oppressed by everyday existence, seeking a kind of fulfillment to stand in for higher emotions. “Mesopotamia is a full-blooded ballad about a love that no one expects and nothing will change. Brilliantly written, deeply immersed in Ukrainian reality, balancing on the verge between brutality and frailty, between feeling and desire,” the organizers of the Angelus said about the novel.

At the press conference after the award was given, Zhadan stressed that it was very important to him to receive an award for Central European writers. “At this time, it is very important for us Ukrainians to feel support and to occupy the same cultural space as the other countries of the region. This solidarity, this support for our country, is much more important to me than any monetary award,″ Zhadan said.

He added that he was very happy that Polish and Ukrainian culture were in close contact. “I hope that, in the near future, Ukraine will have a prestigious literary award, and that it will be given to a Polish writer,″ he stated.

The jury qualified seven books for the last stage of the competition. Apart from the winner, the finalists included Polish novels: Jacek Dehnel's Mother Makryna, Andrzej Stasiuk's East, Ziemowit Szczerek's Route Seven, and Olga Tokarczuk's Books of Jakub, as well as I Saw Her That Night by Slovenian author Drago Jancar, and Matei Brunul by Romanian author Lucian Dan Teodorovici.

The Angelus Central European Literary Award is given to the best book published in the Polish language in the year previous. Publishers can submit works by living authors from the twenty-one countries of Central Europe. The award is an Angelus statuette by Ewa Rossano, and a cheque for 150,000 zloty. The award is funded by the city of Wrocław.

Two years ago, it was decided to honor Natalia Gorbanyevska – a Russian poet who passed away in 2013, and who had served as head of the Angelus jury – by giving an award her name. This is an honorary distinction for one of the seven finalists singled out by the public. Readers decided that this year it should go to Lucian Dan Teodorovici.

Other award winners were Michał Petryk and Adam Pomorski, who translated Zhadan's novel. The translators' award of 20,000 zloty was funded by the Angelus Silesius State Professional School in Wałbrzych.

The winner of last year's award was Slovakia's Pavol Rankov, who was singled out for It Happened September First (or Some Other Time).

The Angelus Central European Literary Award was presented this year for the tenth time.