Last week, organizers announced the 55 books from 14 participating countries nominated for the 2021 European Union Prize for Literature (EUPL):

The prize, organizers write, recognizes “emerging fiction writers from across Europe” as well as Tunisia. The award rotates between the 41 countries that are part of the “Creative Europe” program. In addition to EU member states, that list also includes Norway, Iceland, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and one member from off-continent: Tunisia 

The EUPL, which launched in 2009, selects one winner per country from a third of participating countries. This year’s edition will choose winners from Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Iceland, Latvia, Malta, Moldova, the Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, and Tunisia.

The three shortlisted Tunisian titles are:

Amin Al-Ghazzi’s زندالي.. ليلة 14 جانفي 2011​ (Zindali: The Night of January 14, 2011), published by Zeineb éditions

Béchir Garbouj’s L’Emirat (The Emirate), published by Déméter

Saber Mansouri’s Sept morts audacieux et un poète assis (Seven Daring Deaths and a Seated Poet), published by Elyzad

Al-Ghazzi is also a poet; when his Zindali was released, he spoke with al-Jazeera. Zindali, they write, “is trying to inspire and rewrite the epic of the Tunisian revolution and build its narrative and the values ​​on which it was built of freedom, dignity and a demand for work, and it tries to bring up the questions of the revolution that people still ask today, all through the music of Zindali and Odessa Popular, lyrical epic, storytelling, and crazy zurbouia dance for the symphony of the revolution.”

Garbouj co-won Tunisia’s Golden Comar prize in 2017 for his novel Passe l’intrus along with Yamen Menai for his L’amas ardent, translated to The Ardent Swarm by Lara Vergnaud.

Mansouri also won a Golden Comar in 2014, for his novel Je suis né huit fois (I Was Born Eight Times).

There is a complicated set of criteria on the EUPL website (the book must be written in an official language of the author’s country; author must have published 2-4 works of fiction; but these cannot have been translated into more than four languages). According to the website, prize’s objective is “to give international visibility to authors who are at the beginning of their career in the country of their nationality/residence and have started to have international exposure.

The four-member jury for Tunisia, chaired by Raja Ben Slama, includes:

Raja Ben Slama, professor at the University of Manouba, psychoanalyst, director-general of the National Library of Tunisia

Kamel Gaha, professor emeritus of French literature, member of the Beit-al-Hikma Academy

Jalel El-Gharbi, professor of literature at the University of La Manouba

Adam Fethi, writer, President of PEN Tunisia

The winners of the EUPL 2021 edition are set to be announced on May 18 in a digital event. 

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