The Orphanage by Serhiy Zhadan won the EBRD Literature Prize 2022

The Orphanage, a novel written by Serhiy Zhadan and translated from Ukrainian by Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler, has won the 2022 EBRD Literature Prize.

The €20,000 prize will be split between the author and translator.

This is now the fifth year of the EBRD Literature Prize which celebrates the very best in translated literature from the nearly 40 countries where the Bank invests: from central and eastern Europe to Central Asia, the Western Balkans and the southern and eastern Mediterranean.

The €20,000 Prize is awarded to the best work of literary fiction originally written in a language from one of these countries, which has been translated into English and published by a UK or a Europe-based publisher.

The international prize was created in 2017 by the EBRD, in cooperation with the British Council. It is one of the few international literature prizes which recognises both author and translator in equal measure.

The Orphanage (published by Yale University Press) is written by the widely acclaimed Ukrainian novelist and poet, Serhiy Zhadan. Set in contemporary eastern Ukraine, the book is a raw, compelling story of a civilian’s desperate journey through conflict zones to reach home.   

Toby Lichtig, Chair of the independent judging panel, said: “A schoolteacher travels across the war-torn Donbas in Ukraine to pick up his nephew from a residential school. The pair then travel back home together. Belying the simplicity of this storyline is Serhiy Zhadan’s extraordinary, explosive, tender, angry and poetic novel of a country riven by conflict, and the absurdities, banalities, horrors and moments of human connection that war occasions. The Orphanage was timely when it first appeared in Ukrainian in 2017, it was timely when it first appeared in Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler’s excellent translation last year, and it is even more grimly timely now.”

Announcing the winner of this year’s Literature Prize at a virtual Award Ceremony today, Odile Renaud-Basso, EBRD President, said:  “With all of the world’s attention on many of our EBRD’s countries of operations, for devastating reasons, the EBRD Literature Prize reminds us of the power of literature to convey urgent experiences, bridge cultural divides and unite us in our shared humanity.”

Serhiy Zhadan is is widely considered to be one of the most important contemporary writers in Ukraine. In March 2022, the Polish Academy of Sciences nominated Zhadan for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Zhadan is the author of five novels, more than a dozen books of poetry, as well as many plays, short stories and political essays. His work has been translated into 17 languages and he is a winner of more than a dozen literary awards. For example, his novel Voroshylovhrad (2010) won the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature in Switzerland, BBC Ukrainian’s “Book of the Decade” Award and the Brücke Berlin Prize, and his book Mesopotamia (2014) won the Angelus Central European Literature Award in 2015. Aside from being a major literary figure, Zhadan is front-man and lyricist for the ska-punk band, Zhadan and the Dogs. He has remained in Kharkiv since the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, undertaking humanitarian work and doing interviews in the city.

Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler are a team of literary translators who work with both Russian and Ukrainian, best known for their renderings of novels by the Ukrainian author Serhiy Zhadan, including Voroshilovgrad (Deep Vellum Publishing) and Mesopotamia (Yale University Press). Wheeler is also a poet and an editor at Two Chairs, a new online poetry journal.

The two runner-up titles for the EBRD Literature Prize 2022 received €8,000, also split between writer and translator. These were The Book of Katerina by Auguste Corteau, translated from Greek by Claire Papamichail (Parthian Books); and Boat Number Five by Monika Kompaníková, translated from Slovak by Janet Livingstone (Seagull Books).

Many of the finalist writers and translators were present at the EBRD virtual ceremony on 13 June, during which fellow judges Toby Lichtig, Alex Clark and Kathryn Murphy discussed the winning book and the art of literary translation.

About the EBRD Literature Prize

The EBRD Literature Prize is a project of the Bank’s Community Initiative, which provides a framework for the engagement of staff and the institution in philanthropic, social and cultural activities in the regions where the Bank works.

The 2022 edition was awarded to the best work of literary fiction translated from the original language into English and published for the first time by a UK or Europe-based publisher between 15 November 2020- 31 December 2021.

See all information about the EBRD Literature Prize

Past winners of the EBRD Literature Prize

The first EBRD Literature Prize was won in April 2018 by the Turkish author Burhan Sönmez and his translator Ümit Hussein for the novel Istanbul, Istanbul (Saqi Books). The second Literature Prize was won by the Uzbek writer, Hamid Ismailov and translator Donald Rayfield (with John Farndon) for The Devils’ Dance (Tilted Axis Press) —  the first novel translated from Uzbek into English. The third Literature Prize was won in May 2020 by the Lithuanian author Grigory Kanovich and his translator Yisrael Elliot Cohen for the novel Devilspel (Noir Press). The fourth Literature Prize was won in June 2021 by the Polish author Szczepan Twardoch and his translator Sean Gaspar Bye for the novel The King of Warsaw (Amazon Crossing).

About the Judges

Toby Lichtig is the Chair of Judges for the 2022 EBRD Literature Prize. Toby is the Fiction and Politics Editor of the Times Literary Supplement (TLS). He is also a freelance editor and writer, and writes for a range of publications including the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian. Toby has appeared as a guest critic on various television and radio programmes, regularly interviews writers during the Hay Literary Festival, and also freelances as a documentary producer. He was Chair of Judges of the 2018 JQ-Wingate Prize, and a jury member of the 2019 EU Prize for Literature. He served as Chair of Judges for the 2021 edition of the EBRD Literature Prize.Twitter: @TobyLichtig

Alex Clark is a critic, journalist and broadcaster. A co-host of Graham Norton’s Book Club, she is also a regular on Radio 4 and writes on a wide range of subjects for the Guardian, the Observer, the Irish Times and the TLS. She is a patron of the Cambridge Literary Festival, and has judged many literary awards, including the Booker Prize. She is an experienced chair of live events, and lives in Kilkenny, Ireland. Twitter: @AlexClark3

Boris Dralyuk is a literary translator, a poet, and the Editor-in-Chief of the Los Angeles Review of Books. His work has appeared in the TLS, the New York Review of Books, the New YorkerLondon Review of Books, the Guardian, and other journals.

He is the author of Western Crime Fiction Goes East: The Russian Pinkerton Craze 1907-1934; translator of several volumes from the Russian, including work by Isaac Babel, Andrey Kurkov, Maxim Osipov, and Mikhail Zoshchenko; editor of 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution; and co-editor of The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (2015).

Boris received first prize in the 2011 Compass Translation Award competition, and in 2020 won the inaugural Kukula Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Book Reviewing from the Washington Monthly. His collection My Hollywood and Other Poems was published by Paul Dry Books in April 2022. Twitter: @BorisDralyuk

Kathryn Murphy is a literary critic and scholar who reviews Czech literature for the TLS, and is a regular contributor, both as a reviewer and essayist, to Apollo: The International Art Magazine. She is a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oriel College, and an Associate Professor in the Faculty of English, University of Oxford. Her various interests include literature, theology, and philosophy in the seventeenth century; Central European literature; the literary essay; and still-life painting. Kathryn is co-editor of On Essays: Montaigne to the Present (Oxford, 2020) and a curator of the Bodleian exhibition Melancholy: A New Anatomy. Her book Robert Burton: A Vital Melancholy will be published by Reaktion in 2022. Twitter: @manymanypiles

About the EBRD

The EBRD was set up in 1991 after the fall of the Berlin Wall to meet the challenge of an extraordinary moment in Europe’s history: the collapse of communism.  It is a multilateral bank with almost 70 shareholders which promotes the development of the private sector and entrepreneurial initiatives in 38 countries and economies across three continents.  

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One comment

  1. If you haven’t discovered Serhii Zhadan yet, now’s the time to do it, and this novel is a great place to start.

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