The Lake and the EBRD Literature Prize Shortlist: Bianca Bellová and Alex Zucker with Maya Jaggi at the Oxford Literary Festival

Tuesday, 19 March 2024, 2pm, Bodleian: Divinity School £7 – £13.50, Buy Tickets Now Buy The Books

Novelist Bianca Bellová and her translator Alex Zucker discuss her novel The Lake, winner of the 2023 European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Literature Prize. They will talk to writer and critic Maya Jaggi, this year’s chair of judges of the EBRD Literature Prize, who will unveil the shortlist for the 2024 award.

The Lake is a raw coming-of-age novel set in a post-apocalyptic world of climate collapse. It won the EBRD Literature Prize in Zucker’s English translation. On the toxic shores of a dying lake, in an unnamed land occupied by Russian forces, a boy from a fishing village searches for his mother who disappeared when he was small, and for the mystery of his origins, amid sporadic, casual violence that recalls A Clockwork Orange. Written in Czech, Bellová’s internationally acclaimed novel was inspired by a National Geographic photo story about the shrinking Aral Sea, east of the Caspian.

‘A bewitching, beguiling, terrifying and shocking portal into a world gone wrong – in which small gestures nonetheless keep the flame of hope alive. The Lake is utterly propulsive, immersive and unique, and deserves to become a European classic, to be read by many generations to come.’ TLS fiction editor Toby Lichtig, chair of judges of 2023 EBRD Literature Prize

The EBRD Literature Prize was first awarded in 2018 and champions the rich literary culture of the 36 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa in which the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development invests. The 2023 shortlist included two Nobel prizewinners, Olga Tokarczuk of Poland and Orhan Pamuk of Turkey. The prize, shared equally between author and translator, is open for the first time this year to US and Canadian publications as well as UK and European ones. Its panel of judges includes the authors Maureen Freely and Philippe Sands.

Bellová was born and lives in Prague. A Czech fiction writer, translator and interpreter with Bulgarian roots, she is the author of seven novels and a collection of short stories. They range from Sentimental Novel, on the trials of growing up towards the end of communism, to Transfer, a set of stories about four protagonists who meet by chance in the transfer zone of an international airport in Europe. The Lake (Parthian Books in the UK) also won the 2017 EU Prize for Literature and the 2016 Czech Magnesia Litera for Book of the Year.

Zucker lives in the US and has translated novels by Czech authors including Bianca Bellová, Jáchym Topol, Petra Hůlová, J. R. Pick, Magdaléna Platzová, Tomáš Zmeškal, Josef Jedlička, Heda Margolius Kovály, Patrik Ouředník, and Miloslava Holubová.

Jaggi is founding director of the festival’s programme of Georgian literature and culture and is a contributing art critic for FT. Her award-winning cultural writing has appeared widely, including in The New York Review of Books and The Guardian – where she was a profile writer and fiction critic for a decade. She is chair of the independent jury of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Literature Prize 2024 and was artistic director of the UK’s first festival of Georgian writers, Where Europe Meets Asia: Georgia25, in 2016, and its online sequel, Georgia’s Fantastic Tavern, at the British Library and Writers’ House in 2021 – both of which she originated.

Part of the festival’s Voices of Europe programme.

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