The European Union has its own literary prize, the winners of which were announced last Wednesday. Nobody much seems to have noticed.
The award goes to "emerging writers" from a different selection of countries every year, chosen by a small group of experts from each nation. This year Germany was included, and the German winner is Iris Hanika for Das Eigentliche (published by Droschl Verlag in Austria, another indie publisher doing great work). They say it's "a novel about Germany ailing with its Nazi past, and therefore by no means a historical novel but a very contemporary one." I haven't read it but I'm reliably assured that Hanika is a great writer. This is her second novel, with the previous longlisted for the German Book Prize a couple of years ago.
My problem with the prize is its lack of visibility. Although it's supported by all kinds of writerly associations, it has a strange reek of unsexiness about it, perhaps because of the "European Union" in the title. Here's what they say in the press release:
Federation of European Publishers President, Fergal Tobin, added: “Today's announcements highlight the fundamental role of all players in the book value chain and put the spotlight on new literary talents in Europe. I am particularly pleased that together with the Commission and our natural partners, the writers and the booksellers, we are organising this Prize which increases the visibility of writers from all over Europe and contributes to the diversified European cultural heritage.”
Except it's not really increasing that visibility, is it? Perhaps a larger PR budget would be a good idea. Or not announcing the winners at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where everything else is announced as well and battling for column inches. Or not using the term "book value chain" in the announcement. Because it's an interesting initiative that deserves more attention than it seems to be getting.