Georgi Gospodinov wins Angelus Central European Literature Award 2019

On Saturday 19 October in Wrocław, Angelus Central European Literature Award was presented for the 14th time, the most important distinction for writers from Central Europe whose books were published in Polish. This year, for the first time the winner is a writer coming from Bulgaria. The jury awarded Geori Gospodinov for his novel The Physics of Sorrow [Физика на тъгата], published by Wydawnictwo Literackie. He received the award from Mayor of Wrocław Jacek Sutryk.

The winner was selected by the following jury: Mykola Riabchuk (chairman), Marcin Cieński, Urszula Glensk, Ryszard Krynicki, Anna Nasiłowska, Małgorzata Szpakowska and Piotr Śliwiński. Gospodinow received a cheque for 150 000 PLN and a statuette designed by Ewa Rossano. The founder of the Award is the city of Wrocław.   

Who is the winner of Angelus 2019?
Born in 1968, Georgi Gospodinov is one of the most often translated Bulgarian writers, whose work was presented in, among others, The New York Times and The New Yorker. He published 7 volumes of poetry and 8 books of prose, including The Physics of Sorrow from 2012, a novel which in Bulgaria sold out in three weeks. The book was translated into Polish by Magdalena Pytlak and published in 2018 by Wydawnictwo Literackie.

During a meeting with Angelus nominees, the author said that The Physics of Sorrow was written as an attempt to answer the question why Bulgaria is considered one of the saddest countries in the world.

‘Gospodinov encourages us to reconsider the myth of Minotaur and see that the monster is actually the victim. In his prose, the reality of life in Bulgaria was deliberately universalized and so it is  very close to a Polish reader, who can at the same time learn why live snails were being swallowed in the Balkans…’ says Urszula Glensk, member of Angelus jury. ‘It is also a novel about empathy. A “Bulgarian” One Hundred Years of Solitude. It’s the greatest literature’.

Angelus for translation and the readers’ award

Since 2010, Angelus (and a cheque for 20 000 PLN) is also awarded for the best translation, to the translator of the winning book. This year, the winner was Magdalena Pytlak, lecturer at the Slavic Philology Department of the Jagiellonian University.

The third distinction presented during the Angelus gala is the Natalya Gorbanevskaya Award, organized for five years now. It honours the memory the Russian poet and journalist, the first chairperson of Angelus jury, who died in 2013. The winner is selected by the readers in online voting. This year, the most votes were received by Ukrainian writer Yuriy Vynnychuk for his The Tango of Death [Танґо смерті], published by Wydawnictwo Kolegium Europy Wschodniej.

The Tango of Death is a surprising book. Just when I thought I don’t want to read yet another story about Lviv which idealizes the city and its multiculturalism, I received an engrossing, even fascinating story. The Polish reader gets here an absolutely different perspective of looking at Lviv and a very contemporary Houellebecq style character,’ says Piotr Śliwiński, member of Angelus jury.

The following titles were shortlisted for the Angelus Central European Literature Award this year: Bianca Bellová, Jezero [The Lake], transl. into Polish by Anna Radwan-Żbikowska, published by Wydawnictwo Afera; Georgi Gospodinov, Физика на тъгата [The Physics of Sorrow], transl. into Polish by Magdalena Pytlak, published by Wydawnictwo Literackie; Sergei Lebedev Предел забвения [Oblivion], transl. into Polish by Grzegorz Szymczak, published by Wydawnictwo Claroscuro; Christoph Ransmayr, Cox oder Der Lauf der Zeit [Cox or The Passage of Time], transl. into Polish by Jacek St. Buras, published by Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego; Sasha Marianna Salzmann, Ausser sich [Beside Myself], transl. into Polish by Agnieszka Walczy, published by Prószyński i s-ka; Yuriy Vynnychuk, Танґо смерті [The Tango of Death], transl. into Polish by Bohdan Zadura, published by Kolegium Europy Wschodniej im. Jana Nowaka Jeziorańskiego; and Polina Zherebtsova, Муравей в стеклянной банке. Чеченские дневники 1994–2004 гг.  [Ant in a Glass Jar: Chechen Diaries 1994–2004], transl. into Polish by Agnieszka Knyt & Michał B. Jagiełło, published by Fundacja Ośrodka KARTA. The titles were selected from among 105 books published in 2018 and qualified for the Award. The winners from previous years include: Yurii Andrukhovych, Martin Pollack, Serhiy Zhadan, Péter Esterházy and Svetlana Alexievich, who later received the Nobel Prize in Literature. The organizer of Angelus Central European Literature Award is Wrocław Literature House.