Less than a year after neos cosmos announced that Greek author’s Auguste Corteau’s (Petros Hatzopoulos) novel The Book of Katerina was translated into English, it has been shortlisted on the prestigious EBRD Literature Prize 2022.
The prize recognizes the best works of literary fiction translated into English from within the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) region. Eight languages feature on the shortlist that includes the authors and their translators.
The chair of the judges’ panel, Toby Lichtig said the selection highlighted the variety of contemporary fiction that was emerging from eastern and central Europe and central Asia. The shortlist of 10 books was narrowed down from the entries of close to 40 nations.
“We encounter a mixture of styles and genres, all superbly rendered into English,” Mr Lichtig said, of the books on the shortlist.
The Book of Katerina was first published in Greece in 2013, where it sold over 50,000 copies and has been adapted for the stage.
The English edition, which was translated by Claire Papamichail and edited by Jennifer Barclay, is a fictionalized account of the life of the author’s mother. She, Katerina, is also the book’s narrator, who observes the saga of her extended family’s ups and downs in Thessaloniki over three generations.
Ms Papamichail said in an interview about her work on the book: “It was very difficult for me, trying to find the right word, the right tone, not to betray Petros’ unique style, a mixture of sadness and subtle or not so subtle sarcasm.
“Through the whole narrative, you can never forget that this is a dead person speaking, freely, at last, telling her own truth, from her own perspective. Sometimes you feel compassion for her from her, other times she makes you angry, but the fact that she’s dead now gives a special edge to all of it.
“All families have their secrets, their black sheep, the skeletons in their closets – and some of them don’t know how to deal with them, so the children sense this sort of darkness and react accordingly to their dispositions. In the past, few parents resorted to psychotherapy in order to try and face their problems, so the impact was great on the offspring –sometimes, therapy was not even available, only numbing drugs. Although, I must say that most Greek families are a bit dysfunctional” Ms Papamichail said.
Three finalists, authors and translators, for the EBRD prize will be announced on 16 May. The winners, who stand to win €20,000, will be announced at an award ceremony in June.
The EBRD created the prize in 2017 with funds drawn from members of the EBRD in cooperation with the British Council. It is one of few international literature prizes to recognize both writer and translator. The work must be published by a UK- or Europe-based publisher.
♦ The Book of Katerina was published in English by Parthian Books with support from the Creative Program of the European Union, the Books Council of Wales, and the British Council.