Angelus 2014 for Pavol Rankov

The book by  Pavol Rankov ‘It Happened on September the First, or Whenever’  had already received a prize from readers – thanks to their online votes, it won the Natalya Gorbanevskaya Prize (a honorary diploma and a drawing by Stanisław Tyszkiewicz) for the first time in the history of Angelus.

When receiving the readers’ prize, the writer and his translator swapped their roles. The translator Tomasz Grabiński was the first person who thanked for this distinction, as if anticipating the writer’s words. ‘So many people voted for my book on the Internet that I hope they will find a while to really read my book,’ joked Pavol Rankov.

For the first time, the chairman of the jury was Mykola Riabchuk – a Ukrainian literary critic, essayist and publicist, who took over this function after the death of the previous chairwoman.

‘Only today, as a neophite in this industry and in this body, have I understood how difficult it is to choose the only book that wins,’ said Mykola Riabchuk. ‘We selected the Top 14 quite easily, the selection of the Top 7 in the semi-final was a more difficult task, and making the final decision was extremely difficult. We voted three times and, although – as one Ukrainian poet said – were “equally the best in the football team,” we had to find this only one. I felt like during a penalty shootout after a draw in the final. The jury consisted of 9 persons – the result of the last voting was 4:4 and Pavol Rankov turned out to be the last card,’ said Riabchuk.

’This was something we were not prepared for,’ said Tomasz Grabiński when entering the stage of Capitol together with the laureate of Angelus 2014 – Pavol Rankov in order to receive the award.

‘It’s a huge surprise and shock to me. I and my translator haven’t prepared anything special on this occasion,’ confirmed Pavol Rankov. ‘I will continue my thanks, because previously I forgot to thank the members of the jury, thanks to whom I’m standing here with my hands full. However, I prefer to express myself in writing rather than verbally, as I wouldn’t like to say anything I’d be later ashamed of. I believe that many good books will receive this award in further editions. I hope that we’ll meet in Wroclaw again some time,’ added Rankov.

Pavol Rankov (born 1964) is a Slovakian writer. He works as a lecturer at the Comenus University in Bratislava. His books have been translated into many languages. Rankov is the author of three collections of short stories: ‘S odstupom času’ (From the Perspective of Time, 1995); ‘My a oni / Oni a my’ (Us and Them / Them and Us, 2001) and „V tesnej blízkosti” (Near Here, 2004). Their Polish selection was published in 2011 under the title ‘Bratysława jest mała’ (Bratislava Is Small). In 1995, Rankov received the prestigious Ivan Krasko Award, which is granted to Slovakian debut authors. His historical novel ‘It Happened on September the First, or Whenever’ received the European Literary Award and a number of prestigious Slovakian awards (including ‘SME’’s Readers’ Prize and the the Tatra Bank Foundation Award). The adaptation of the novel was staged by the Slovakian National Theatre. Rankov’s latest novel ‘Matky’ (Mothers) was published in 2011.

‘It Happened on September the First (or Whenever)’ tells the story of a rivalry between three friends that begins at a swimming pool in Levice in 1938. Three teenagers – a Hungarian, a Czech and a Jew – organise a private swimming competition. The winner will have the right to try to win the favours of Mària, their beautiful peer. However, Peter, Jan and Gabriel do not know that their race will continue for 30 years. The teenage love will change the lives of all four persons. The boys’ fascination with one woman will not be interrupted either by the war or by the first two decades of communist rule in Czechoslovakia, although history and politics will put their friendship to a difficult test. The story of main protagonists is interwoven with humorous episodes featuring authentic historical persons, such as Miklós Horthy, Jozef Tiso, Klement Gottwald or Ivan Konev.

In the final round of the competition, ‘It Happened on September the First (or Whenever)’ (published in Poland by Książkowe Klimaty) defeated six other books nominated for the Angelus Award: The Time of Women’ by Elena Chizhova, ‘Libenkraft’s Disease’ by Oleksandr Irwanec, ‘The Accident’ by Ismail Kadare, ‘The Last Deal’ by Wiesław Myśliwski, ‘Make a Small Fire, Little Girl’ by Martin Šmaus and ‘The Devil’s Workshop’ by Jachym Topol.

The Angelus award consists of a cheque for the amount of PLN 150,000 and a statue made by the Wroclaw sculptress Ewa Rossano. Since the 4th edition, the main award has been accompanied by an award for the translator of the award-winning book funded by the Angelus Silesius State School of Higher Vocational Education from Wałbrzych in the amount of PLN 20,000. If Angelus is awarded to a Polish writer, the jury selects the best translator of one of the foreign books.

The decision is made by a jury consisting of: Mykola Riabchuk, Andrzej Zawada, Stanisław Bereś, Piotr Kępiński, Ryszard Krynicki, Tomasz Łubieński, Krzysztof Masłoń, Justyna Sobolewska and Mirosław Spychalski.

In previous years, laureates of the Angelus award were: Miljenko Jergović, Svetlana Alexievich, Gyorgy Spiro, Josef Skvorecky, Peter Esterhazy, Martin Pollack and Yuri Andrukhovych.

Agnieszka Kołodyńska (wroclaw.pl)/Photo. Joanna Jackowska

Pavol Rankov & Tomasz Grabiński

Pavol Rankov & Tomasz Grabiński/Photo Joanna Jackowska