German Booksellers’ Peace Prize: Ukrainian Serhiy Zhadan

The Peace Prize Board commends Serhiy Zhadan for his insight into the wartime conflict and his humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.

Serhiy Zhadan, during his April 16 appearance at a Kharkiv bomb shelter launch party for his Ukrainian translation of Adam Mansbach’s 2011 ‘Go the F*ck to Sleep’. Image: Supplied by Vivat Publishing, Serhiy Bobok

By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson

“A single language”

Jhe German Bookseller’s Peace Prize announced this morning (June 27) that Ukrainian author, poet, translator and musician Serhiy Zhadan will receive the German Bookseller’s Peace Prize on “Frankfurt Sunday” after of Frankfurter Buchmesseon October 24 in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt, St. Paul’s Church.

The honor carries a scholarship of €25,000 (US$26,451) and – as Publishing Perspectives readers will recall – has as its key criteria “a significant contribution to peace, humanity and understanding between the peoples”. Zimbabwean author and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga was the winner of the 2021 prize, and you can see a retrospective on all the winners of the program here.

Announcing the decision today, Schmidt-Friderichs is quoted as saying, “We pay tribute to this Ukrainian author and musician for his outstanding artistic work as well as his unequivocal humanitarian stance, which repeatedly motivates him to risk his own life to help those affected by the disease. war and thus draw more attention to their plight.

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs

“In his novels, essays, poems and lyrics, Serhiy Zhadan introduces us to a world that has undergone radical changes while continuing to live by tradition. His stories illustrate how war and destruction enter this world and upend people’s lives. Throughout his work, he uses a unique language that offers us a vivid and differentiated portrait of the reality that many of us have chosen to ignore for too long.

“Thoughtfully and with the precision of a true listener, in a poetic and sweeping tone, Serhiy Zhadan reveals how the people of Ukraine defy the violence around them, striving instead to live independent lives rooted in peace and freedom. .

Earlier this month, Zhadan won the EBRD Literature Prize from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development with translators Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler for his book The orphanage from Yale University Press (February 2021). And he won the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature in 2010 for his novel Voroshilovgrad.

Zhadan is a Ukrainian nationalist activist, member of the Red Thistle literary group and co-founder of a foundation created to provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainians in Donbass. He has published at least a dozen poetry books and translated poetry from German, English, Belarusian and Russian. He writes in Ukrainian. He also wrote lyrics for rock bands and was the lead singer of the Ukrainian band Sobaki vs Kosmosi (Dogs in Space) since 2007.

As you may recall, when Vivat Publishing in Kharkiv, headed by CEO Julia Orlova, launched a translation by American writer Adam Mansbach in 2011 Fuck you to sleep (Akashic Books) at a bomb shelter celebration on April 16, Zhadan was present at the event, details and images were provided to Publication prospects by the publishing house’s communications director, Galina Padalko.

“Intensive social and cultural activism”

Serhiy Zhadan, from Starobilsk, Luhansk Oblast, in the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine, is, according to the peace prize justification provided to the media, “one of the most important, innovative voices and the most famous of contemporary Ukrainian literature”.

He studied literature as well as Ukrainian and German studies in Kharkiv and obtained his doctorate with a thesis on Ukrainian futurism in 1996. Since the beginning of the 1990s he has played a role in the cultural scene of Kharkiv, organizing literary and musical festivals and publishing novels, poems, short stories and essays.

Since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, Zhadan has been active in a number of social and cultural projects in the partially occupied eastern Ukraine (by pro-Russian separatists). Indeed, his most recent novel, The orphanage, for which he and his translators won the EBRD Literature Prize, is called by the Peace Prize Committee “a compelling account of the conflict in Donbass. A teacher traveling through the war zone in thick fog repeatedly finds himself caught between the front lines and is ultimately confronted with the question of whether he can remain neutral in times of war.

Title boarding school (Suhrkamp, ​​​​2018), the German translation of the novel by Juri Durkot and Sabine Stöhr received the first prize for translation at the Leipzig Book Fair that year in its year of publication, 2018.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022, Zhadan intensified his own efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the affected regions.

“In his early literary works,” writes the Peace Prize Committee, Zhadan “undertakes an exploration of the upheavals associated with the post-Soviet era.”

Her third novel, Die Erfindung des Jazz im Donbass (The invention of jazz in the DonbassSurhkamp, ​​2012, translated by Durkot and Stöhr) “functions as a sort of ‘road novel’ set in the industrial region of Donbass”, writes the commission, “to which the author lends a poetic charge by means of elements surreal and narrative in style, providing a backdrop for the quest to find some kind of home in a world where borders are increasingly dissolving.

The Ukrainian BBC, reports the board, chose this work as its “Book of the Decade”.

Zhadan’s books have been translated into many languages ​​and received numerous international awards, including the Brücke Berlin Prize for Literature and Translation and the Vasyl Stus Prize from the Ukrainian PEN Center.

In 2017, Zhadan launched the Serhiy Zhadan Charitable Foundation, which supports educational and cultural initiatives in eastern Ukraine and is noted by the Peace Prize Board as “an example of social activism and intensive cultural work of the author, which he further intensified in the aftermath of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

Zhadan reportedly remained in hard-hit Kharkiv, where he organizes concerts, saves civilians from gunfire and shelling, gives poetry readings and distributes aid around the city.

His recent articles have drawn attention to the situation in Ukraine and how citizens are struggling to maintain their daily routines amid Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked assault on the nation.

Serhiy Zhadan in Kharkiv on April 16. Image: provided by Vivat Publishing, Serhiy Bobok

This is the 117th Publishing Perspectives awards report produced in the 119 publishing days since we began our 2022 operations on January 3.

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About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident member of Trends Research & Advisory, and was named International Business Journalist of the Year at the London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards. He is editor of Publishing Perspectives. He was previously associate editor of The FutureBook at The Bookseller in London. Anderson was a senior producer and anchor for, CNN International and CNN USA for more than a decade. As an art critic (National Critics Institute), he has collaborated with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which is now owned and operated by Jane Friedman.