Vassilis Alexakis was born in Athens in 1944. He arrived in France at the age of seventeen. He first worked as a cartoonist, then a journalist, having notably collaborated with the Monde.
- ALEXIS VASILIS
- SYNOPSIS ROMAN
- MADELEINE ZEPTER SPEECH
- DENIS TILLINAC SPEECH
- CHRISTIAN ESTROSI SPEECH
- PICTURE GALLERY
He is also a filmmaker, with four Greek comedies to his credit, including The Table and The Athenians, which won the prize for best film at the Chamrousse festival in 1991.
He worked for the radio station France Culture on the Les Décraqués and Des Papous dans la tête broadcasts.
Le Sandwich, (Julliard, 1974)
Les Girls du City-Boum-Boum, (Julliard, 1975)
Talgo, (Le Seuil, 1983)
Contrôle d’identité, (Le Seuil, 1985)
Paris-Athènes, (Le Seuil, 1989)
Avant, (Le Seuil, 1989), Albert Camus Award
La Langue maternelle, (Fayard, 1995), winner of the Prix Médicis
Papa, (Fayard, 1997), winner of short story prize, the Prix de la Nouvelle, from the Académie française
Le Cœur de Marguerite, (Stock, 1999)
Les Mots étrangers [Foreign Words], (Stock, 2002)
Je t’oublierai tous les jours, (Stock, 2005)
Ap. J.-C., (Stock, 2007), winner of the 2007 Grand Prix for a novel from the Académie française
Le premier mot, (Stock, 2010)
L’Enfant grec, (Stock, 2012)L'ENFANT GREC (The Greek Child)This is the story of a to-and-fro between two gardens, one for children, located in the district of Kallithea in Athens, and the Luxembourg Gardens, where the narrator wanders with difficulty, supported by crutches. He has just had a major operation, but it is of no interest to anyone anymore—except the lady who maintains the toilets in the garden, a tramp named Ricardo, the director of the puppet theatre and an old man with white hair who looks like Jean Valjean. His loneliness conjures up his childhood heroes who slowly emerge around him—those who really did come to the Luxembourg gardens, like Jean Valjean and the three Musketeers, but also Tarzan, who does not understand why they built houses around the gardens when there is so much space in the trees, the orphans, pirates, and Indians, as well as Richelieu who watches over this small universe through the windows of the Senate. And finally comes death, represented by a giant, white-clad puppet with chicken feet in the place of hands...and a beautiful Italian woman cast in bronze. Muted noises of the world reach the garden: the cries of young people protesting at Constitution Square in Athens can be heard, we learn that Zorba danced at the Bundestag in front of the German parliament. Since novelists like sending their characters underground in sewers or down burrows, the story ends in the catacombs. Jean Valjean will be kind enough to carry the narrator on his back. And, as one might guess, the central character of the novel is literature.
Vassilis Alexakis has published amongst others, Paris-Athènes, La langue maternelle (winner of the 1995 Prix Médicis), Les mots étrangers [Foreign Words], Ap. J.-C. (Winner of the 2007 Grand Prix for a novel from the Académie française) and Le premier mot. L’Enfant grec is his fourteenth novel.Mr. Mayor, Excellencies, Consuls, dear friends, dear Monique Mille,
Mr. Mayor, the members of the jury and I are particularly touched by your welcome. We have come together to pay tribute to Raoul Mille, here in the city that welcomed and inspired him. Nice is at the heart of his work. In 2003, I created a literary prize that bears my name with the aim of strengthening the ties between European countries. Raoul Mille shared this same aspiration—that of initiating a dialogue from which no country would be excluded.
The jury already included prominent players in the literary sphere. And since then, others have joined, including members of the Académie française, writers, writer-journalists, writer-publishers, and literary critics. Allow me to thank them for their support on this occasion of the presentation of this tenth literary prize. Their competence is authoritative. Over the course of these years we have awarded the prize to Margaret Mazzantini and Simonetta Greggio, both Italian; the Slovenian Brina Svit; two Irish authors, Joseph O'Connor and John Banville; the Norwegian, Per Petterson; Scottish writer John Burnside; Andres Trapiello from Spain and Ian McEwan, from Great Britain.
Today, I am pleased to present the tenth edition of the European Prize here at the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen. There could not be better suited place for awarding you the Madeleine Zepter European Literary Prize 2012 for your novel The Greek Child Vassilis Alexakis, than here on the Mediterranean—and I quote, "This Mediterranean that all young Greeks learns to consider their second home."
You, Vassilis Alexakis, are a writer with two linguistic identities, two cultures, and you are certainly the most French of all Greek authors.
I dare say that the French language is the main character of The Greek Child, who leads us into the mythology of the Jardin du Luxembourg. You draw from the literature, call the living, and summon the dead. Marie de Medici, Baudelaire, and Lenin tread these gardens. You hide your nostalgia under the cloak of d'Artagnan and Porthos, encountered at the corner of an alley. A couple becomes the reincarnation of Cosette and Jean Valjean.
Vassilis Alexakis, you are rightly called the Greek Merlin, and I thank you for this book, which makes us happy.What a joy it is to herald the 10th Madeleine Zepter European Literary Prize here at the C.U.M where I feel at home, here in Nice, a city I have come to love, and under the auspices of my friend Christian Estrosi, Mayor of Nice, and former minister, who I know seeks to strengthen the cultural influence of his city.
10 years ago, Madeleine Zepter entrusted me with the presidency of the jury for this prize, which she sought to create in France. I was already aware of the magnitude and persistence of her cultural patronage, which includes a design prize to be awarded tomorrow in Monaco, an opera house, a publishing house, and an auction house. A generous humanitarian patronage completes the incredible activism of this individual, who, in all honesty, deserves all the honour. Madeleine Zepter is the wife of Philip Zepter, a Serbian industrialist of international stature, specialized in household appliances as well as cosmetics and luxury goods.
I am also aware of his attachment to Europe, the real Europe, not that of the technocrats, the one that perpetuates the sumptuous legacy of Athens, and of Rome and its Judeo-Christian and humanist battles. Few juries are more prestigious than ours. It includes the Académie française member Michel Déon, Dominique Bona, Franz-Olivier Giesbert, Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, Eric Neuhoff, Frédéric Beigbeder, Patrick Besson, Jacques Gantién who was born in Nice, and the Serbian writer Vladan Radoman, a long-time resident of Nice. Unfortunately, a name is missing from this list—that of our friend Raoul Mille, whose passing was recalled by Christian Estrosi. He was a wonderful writer and a kind companion, who, no doubt out of modesty, dissimulated his melancholy behind a façade of irony without malice. I can almost see him, with his beard and his mischievous gaze, here in the C.U.M. where he always greeted me heartily. As a tribute, Madeleine Zepter wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her prize in Nice, his city of adoption, which inspired Raoul's beautiful prose, both in his novels and his chronicles. This initiative, which would have delighted Paul Valéry, was immediately supported by Christian Estrosi. And now, Madeleine will award the prize to our 10th winner. The nine predecessors of this year's winner are all renowned European writers, and we pride ourselves in helping raise awareness of the countries of this continent.
This year's winner is no less prestigious. He writes in French, but he is Greek. The book we have elected in a very democratic manner and with a certain unanimity is endearing. The winner of the 10th Madeleine Zepter literary prize is Alexis Vasilis, for his novel "The Greek child", published by Stock Editions. I warmly congratulate him and ask Madeleine to present him with his prize.
Thank you for your attention.It is an honour for the city of Nice to host the Madeleine Zepter European Literary Prize award ceremony
Nice is a land of literature. Nietzsche found a certain gentleness in our landscapes that soothed his troubled mind, Maupassant sailed the Mediterranean to taste solitude, Tchekhov found rest at the Russian pension Romain Gary wrote his first two texts just a few steps from here, near the C.U.M. Our Nobel Prize winner for Literature, JMG Le Clézio nurtured his dreams of adventure and travel growing up in the port district, Max Gallo joined the Académie française, but has never forgotten his Niçois roots, Didier van Cauwelaert, despite his Parisian exile, remains a child of the region, Louis Nucera tenderly portrayed ordinary people living extraordinary loves in our city.
And, Raoul Mille, my friend, who passed away just a few months ago, through whose writings we discover his intense attachment to Nice. He never stopped working to promote and celebrate literature, and established a literacy program that nurtures the desire to read, a love of words, and an appetite for language in young people. He spared no effort to ensure that our Book Festival became a major event, with prestigious guests. Raoul Mille also contributed to making the C.U.M.—where I have the pleasure of gathering with you tonight, and whose first director was Paul Valéry—a renowned cultural venue where intellectuals, artists, writers, and thinkers of our time come to share their knowledge and views. Finally, Raoul Mille was one of the jury members of the Madeleine Zepter European Literary Prize. He would have been pleased to be among us to celebrate this 10th year... and just as pleased to take part in this event where Nice and literature are intimately linked.
As I was saying, it is a great honour for me to welcome you to our sunny region, which has inspired writers, both native to this region or from elsewhere, for so long. Since 2003, the Madeleine Zepter Literary Prize has honoured the author of a European novel, written or translated into French. It reminds us that literature is a universal art—at once a window to the world, and a meeting place. Literature is an image of humanity in all its complexity, whatever its origin, whatever its life experience, and whatever its homeport. Whether in Rome or Paris, Belgrade or Nice, Berlin or Athens, we are all moved by the same wonders, affected by the same anxieties, and ask the same questions. A European literary prize allows us to see these emotions in a different light, when expressed in other languages. Still, these emotions unite us in a common impetus and shared expectations. They are the ties between individuals that protect us against solitude.
Nice is located in the heart of the Mediterranean, a cultural and commercial crossroads. It is a striking illustration of the mix between rootedness and openness. Awarding this prize in our city opens up new horizons for us. It fulfils my desire to see Nice hold sway in the countries of this continent. In these uncertain times where the political unity of Europe is not yet in tune with the community spirit of its authors, your initiative, dear Madeleine Zepter, is to be welcomed. I am conscious of the richness and variety of your patronage. We are all Europeans in the sense that you perceive it. And, while each has their own approach to the idea of Europe, we all aspire to build a united, peaceful, and democratic continent, capable of cultural excellence that shines throughout the world. Nice, by its history and geography, is uniquely qualified to champion this ideal.
Dear Madeleine Zepter, I should like to say once again just how grateful I am and will now give the floor to Denis Tillinac who will reveal this year's winner.Les membres du jury avec Mr. Vassilis Alexakis( le Laureat), Mr.Christian Estrosi, Mme Marland Militello et Mme Monique Mille
Born in 1954 in Slovenia (ex-Yugoslavia), where she finished her studies, Brina Svit, a holder of Master degree in comparative literature and French language, lives in Paris since 1980. Journalist, script writer and director of three short films, Brina Svit is an author of seven novels. « Une nuit à Reykjavik » (« A night in Reykjavik ») is her fifth novel written in French.
Brina Svit has published the following novels for the Gallimard editions :
Con brio (With vigor), 1998
Mort d’une prima donna slovène (Death of a Slovenian prima donna), 2001
Moreno (Moreno), 2003
Un cœur de trop (A heart too much), 2006
Coco Dias ou la Porte Dorée (Coco Dias or the Gilded Door), 2007
Petit éloge de la rupture (A small appraisal of rupture), 2009
Une nuit à Reykjavik (A night in Reykjavik), 2011A night in ReykjavikDoes Lisbeth Sorel really wish to pay Eduardo Ros, a « taxi dancer » whom she had met in Buenos Aires, to spend one night with her? Their encounter happens on another continent, in the land of fire and ice : in Iceland, in one hotel in Reykjavik. The night will be long, the longest of all: from four in the afternoon until noon the next day. In an original manner, the author rounds up the memories of her herione. Digging the ridge of her solitude, Lisbeth Sorel leads the reader through the pains of her life, depicting its flaws and mournings. Her relationship with her mother, the shadow of obsession of her sister Lucie. Unity of place and unity of time are the theatre of luminous rennaissance appearing beneath the sky of colours in the paintings of Rothko.
Written in Fench, Une nuit à Reykjavik (A night in Reykjavik) surprises and consciously engages its reader. The plot is carried out with sensitiveness and portrayed with a pureness, density and strength of the author ‘s double linguistic identity.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, my dear friends…
Because I believe in the « Europe of Letters », I am proud to have created a literary prize that is today reaching its ninth edition.
This prize is awarded by a prestigious jury to the writers of great talent.
First of all, I would like to pay an homage to Michel Mohrt, an eminent member of our jury, who passed away this summer. He was one of the first to support my initiative, to give it the credibility that promoted its influence. At the same time being a historian of Anglo-Saxon literature and a profound admirer of Italy, he was the one to break the borders, the one that Jean d’Ormesson was delighted to welcome to the French Academy in 1985, as a « Breton, Catholic and a tameless person » . Restraint and passion characterize the work of Michel Mohrt. An author who has proven his exceptionality numerous times, a holder of Grand Prize for the novel rewarded by the French Academy, he hasalso received literary prize of the French Academy for the Lifetime Achievement.
As Simonetta Greggio last year, the writer we are rewarding today is writing in French. It is a Slovene : her name is Brina Svit. « Une nuit à Reykjavik » (« A night in Reykjavik ») is her fifth book written in French. To have double linguistic identity : it is a mightiness. Brina Svit, your style is subtly carrying out the plot that is delicately conducted. There is a desperate woman and a man she is paying. You chose to place the night in Reykjavik, in the winter, on the frosty soil of Island. This will be the longest of all nights. « Une nuit à Reykjavik » (« A night in Reykjavik ») is the story of a luminous revival.
Brina Svit, I am delighted to give you the ninth European Literary Prize .Europe in political, economic and financial terms is in the current times experiencing difficulties to that extent that some doubt its survival. It is not up to its creators to judge that.We can just affirm that Europe as a unique culture exists since the Greco-Latin antiquity and it has no desire to vanish. A long collective memory and permanent exchanges have created a rich and complex system of links between the European thinkers, writers and artists, that determine a homogeneous sensibility despite its versatility. Armed with that conviction, Madeleine Zepter, a Serbe and therefore a European in the true sense of that word, had a wish nine years ago to establish a literary prize illustrious for supporting and nourishing the continuous existence of the « «men of letters» that belong to our continent. Cultural philanthropy and humanitarian activism of Madeleine Zepter are an example highly appreciated throughout the whole Europe. She has created an opera in Belgrade, a publishing and an auction house. She has donated numerous scholarships to the deserving young people, other literary prizes and a renowned design award named after her. Privately, Madeleine is the wife of my friend Philippe Zepter , a well known founder of an industrial group with international involvement, who is also engaged in this sponsorship with great conviction. Generously endowed, in the end of every autumn, this literary prize is rewarded by Madeleine Zepter for a novel of a European author, published in French, and also to its translator. Madeleine Zepter wishes for it to be presented in Paris, as an homage to the reputation of a literature capital, that we perhaps still deserve. Or not. In any case we are thrilled about this selection that we owe the pleasure of gathering us here together to conclude the literary season. Madeleine wanted to assemble a prestigious jury. It is my honor and pleasure that she demanded me to preside over its members, although they have a more legitimate entitlement to it than I do. They are : Michèl Déon of the French Academy, Dominique Bona, Franz Olivier Giesbert, Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, Frédéric Beigbeder, Patrick Besson, Jacques Gauthier, and three writers that have excused themselves for their absence: Éric Neuhoff, who is on a business trip, Vladan Radoman and, Raoul Mille, who are ill. For this ninth edition, our discussions have been brief, because one novel has quickly seduced us all and collected a large majority of votes. The author is a women, which exempts us from being charged as male chauvinists. She is a European of a newly date in the political aspect of the national identity, as her native country Slovenia, was admitted to the European Union after the drama that has bloodied the former Yugoslavia.s But she is remarkably European by the fact that after writing novels in her native language – Slovenian, several of them being translated in French, she has written the one that we are rewarding originally in the French language. A militant Francophone in whom I have seen a good omen.
The plot of this novel is set in Reykjavik- this place exists, it is the capital of Iceland. Using an original tone, with the presence of humour and irony , the narrator rounds up her memories during a long and strange night, in a commercial deal, if we can call it that way, with an Argentinian tango dancer that is suppose to join her from Buenos Aires just for one night, receiving a very generous payment. No woman offered me money to show my manhood in a hotel room in Reykjavik. Nor anywhere else, alas. The truth is that I dance like a pair of pincers. Briefly, it is a very beautiful novel , full of tenderness and centered on its heroine, the sister of the narrator, who experiences a moving end. It paints with great accuracy the wounded soul of a women we can consider "modern". It has already received an important prize – Renaudot , and we are pleased to add young Brina Svit to the list of our brilliant laureates –as it is announced- for her novel « Une nuit à Reykjavik »(« A night in Reykjavik »).
Accustomed to literary prizes, Antoine Gallimard, the editor of this book certainly shares our pleasure. I congratulate him for having kindly promoted yet another new talent on the literary scene, after others, and I hope there will be many more because he is still young as he is of my generation.
Madeleine Zepter will present her prize to Brina. Thank you for your attention.Patrick Poivre D'Arvor, Madlena Zepter et Dusan Batakovic - Ambassadeur de Serbie à Paris
Although Italian by origin, Simonetta Greggio writes in French. Born on 21 April 1961 in Padua, Italy, she studied literature in Venice and then moved in 1981 to Paris where she lives and works to this day. She worked as a journalist for a number of years on newspapers and magazines that included City, Telerama, La Repubblica and Figaro Madame...
She is the author of four novels published by Stock:
La Douceur des Hommes (2005)
Col de l'Ange (2007)
Les Mains Nues (2009)
Dolce Vita 1959-1979 (2010)Dolce Vita 1959-1979In 1959, Federico Fellini's film La Dolce Vita caused a scandal in Italy – a country of false modesty because it was constantly under the watchful eye of the Church. However, the film won the Golden Palm award at the Cannes film festival in 1960. The success of this film marked the beginning of a new age filled with many promises and new freedoms. It signalled a radical break with the age of postwar poverty.
1969. Sixteen people lost their lives in a bomb explosion in Milan. This was the first of a long series of terrorist massacres and bloody attacks that plunged the nation into mourning for a long period.
2010. Prince Malo confides in his adviser, Father Saverio. Now that he has turned eighty, he knows that he does not have much time left to live. His confession revolves around the lascivious lifestyle indulged in by the decadent aristocracy, but likewise reveals political secrets of which no one had spoken until then. He is one of the last witnesses of Italy's most glamourous period, and also its darkest.
How did this country that we loved so much take on the colours of red and black as it plunged into violence? Like a detective investigation, the novel Dolce Vita builds up its story in the manner of a screenplay, using flashbacks and long shots and sequences. It describes Italy between 1959 and 1979 – decades marked by scandals, financial swindles, the Red Brigades, the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro, the death of director and poet Pasolini, the Vatican, and the Sicilian mafia Cosa Nostra...
It mentions all the major events that shook the country during this period. It reveals their background and previously hidden connections become clear and obvious. The woof of the story unwinds to show the bloody thread linking the Vatican, the P2 masonic lodge and the Mafia, but it also inks in the shadow of a second power, America, to whom Italy owed its liberation.
In painting an extraordinary portrait of a neighbouring country, the Romanesque novel Dolce Vita offers us a key to understanding present-day Italy encapsulated in the tragic-comic figure of Berlusconi. Since the story is recounted by the last Leopard, his tale exudes the bitter-sweet taste and poisonous charm of the end of a monarchy whose death throes are never-ending. For a country that has never settled accounts with its past becomes a country doomed to pay those accounts for eternity.Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,
We are gathered here to present, for the eighth time, the award that I inaugurated as my contribution to building up Europe. A literature with a European spirit and character, a literary Europe, is a reality that we support with steadfast conviction, both the distinguished members of this panel and I myself. And the novel by Simonetta Greggio, which we are honouring today, Dolce Vita 1959-1979, is precisely about the history of Europe.
The novel takes a look at postwar Italy and investigates the background of the major scandals that rocked the country, be they political, moral, financial, etc. or the terrorist acts of the Red Brigades. It is a story told by the last "Leopard", Prince Malo, and the tale is built up using a series of flashbacks. Indeed, the book resembles something between a detective investigation and a historical essay. A great historical age is reconstructed and a fresco is painted which illustrates the events of two entire decades of Italy's past, but which also explains the next thirty years of the country's political life. It is an Italy we have never experienced before in literature, of which we have never read. Madame Greggio, in using the technique of description, but likewise in raising an indictment, you have succeeded in conjuring up a marvellous picture of your country. In so doing, you have interpreted for us Italy's past and given us a key to unlock Italy's present. I am happy to present you with this prize, which we are awarding for the first time to a novel written in French. And we are presenting this prize here, in Paris, the city I chose to be the capital of literature.The political dimension of the European idea is far from perfect. However, the same spiritual, intellectual and aesthetic heritage denotes the community to which we belong and to which, naturally, the same fate applies. From Athens to Dublin, from Lisbon to Riga, via Belgrade, people are thinking, creating, writing poetry, giving rein to their imagination and rebelling, because they share the same aims and a common system of values. History may have divided us, but it is art that gives us back our joint cultural identity. To a greater or lesser degree, even today we resemble those characters from the novels of Stefan Zweig who tour the major sites of European civilisation and become blood brothers thanks to recognisable, common passwords. It was precisely in order to immortalise these cherished sites of European culture that Madlena Zepter established the European Prize for Literature nine years ago. In doing so, she laid another brick in the extraordinary cultural edifice she is building thanks to her perseverance and unsurpassed energy, and what an imposing building it is. As the wife of Philip Zepter, the Serbian industrialist whose company specialises in household objects, appliances, cosmetics and jewellery and whose business empire stretches worldwide, Madlena Zepter has spent the last 15 years supporting, financing and maintaining cultural undertakings of major importance: the first private opera house in Belgrade, a publishing house, a museum of modern art, an auction house, an international prize for design, and a foundation providing scholarships for young talents and students. To these ends she has donated tens of millions of euros. Yet what is most striking above all is her almost Promethean energy. And it is thanks to her all-embracing patronage, which is becoming increasingly recognised in Europe, that the Madlena Zepter literary prize exists and for which I have the honour of chairing the panel of judges. This is a truly distinguished jury where academy member Michel Déon stands shoulder to shoulder with such luminaries as Dominique Bona, Franz Olivier Giesbert, Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, Frédéric Beigbeder, Patrick Besson, Eric Neuhoff, Jacques Gantié, Raoul Mille and the Serbian writer Vladan Radoman. These friends, so very different in terms of artistic sensibility – hence the arguments during our deliberations – all share the conviction of Madlena Zepter that Europe is a joint reality, vibrant and truly alive, which shines with a unique literary spirit. It is our task to testify to this fact by breaking down language barriers and fighting all efforts to shackle the imagination and render it uniform and monotonous. To this end, what better weapon than the European Prize for Literature that is awarded every autumn to a European novelist. "European" in the broadest sense of the word for the Balkan Peninsula is an integral part of the Europe that means so much to us. In deciding that the award should be presented here in France and that the decision on its recipient should be made by a group of French writers, Madlena Zepter once again crowned Paris as the world's literary capital. I do not know whether we deserve such an honour, but we are grateful to Madlena for her choice. After the previous eight recipients of this award, bestowed on excellent writers who later became famous outside the confines of their own countries, this year's winner is a perfect symbol of the idea of European culture. This time, it is a woman, but the Europeans have never been misogynists. I might have some macho tendencies, but on this occasion I lay down my sword because the book in question captivated me. This year's laureate is an Italian woman writer and our debt to Italian literature is well-known – ever since the time of Caesar and the popes right up to Cinecitta of the 1960s. And our winner this year truly evokes the golden moments of Italian cinema with Fellini, Visconi, Pasolini, Bertolucci, Antonioni, Rossi, Dino Risi and so many other directors whose surnames may end in the Italian "i", but who were so very European at the same time. This year's winner is Simonetta Greggio and her novel Dolce Vita 1959-1979 was published by Stock. The eponymous film directed by Fellini achieved mythical status by enveloping us in nostalgic memories. Simonetta Greggio has turned this nostalgia into literary honey, which we savour with great pleasure. I should like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to the winning writer, to her publisher and to her translator Nicoletta Pacetti. Now I will hand over to Mrs Madlena Zepter to present this great European Prize for Literature.Patrick Poivre D'Arvor, Madlena Zepter et Dusan Batakovic - Ambassadeur de Serbie à Paris
John Burnside was born on 19 March 1955 in Fife, Scotland, where he still resides. He studied at the College of Art and Technology in Cambridge. Earlier he had been resident writer at the University of Dundee and today he lectures at the University of St. Andrews. He won a number of awards and prizes for his first collection of poems The Hoop, published in 1998. In 2000, he was awarded the Whitbread Prize for poetry. He is likewise the author of a collection of short stories and several novels, including: The Dumb House (Métailié, 2003), which won the Charles Baudelaire prize for translation, Living Nowhere (Métailié, 2005), and The Devil's Footprints (Métailié, 2006). His novel A Lie about My Father (Métailié, 2009) won the Madlena Zepter European Prize for Literature for 2009.A LIE ABOUT MY FATHER"My father spent his life telling lies which I, not knowing any better, continued to recount and repeat. For me, the world was a tapestry woven with lies, great and small, about everything under the sun." The "lie" from the title of this wondrous tale grew up out of a feeling of fear. During the 1990s, as he was travelling through the northern part of New York state, John Burnside could not bear it when a hitchhiker he picked up started telling him the truth about his own father. Burnside hid his discomfort behind a lie. Which, in his case, of course, was quite natural.
As a baby, his father had been abandoned on a stranger's doorstep. In order to erase the memory of this unbearable event, his father constructed a whole network of lies. From his childhood, John represented everything wrong about this world and so became the object of his father's hatred. This hatred even manifested itself in the form of uncontrolled violence, and worse still, malicious and cruel humiliation. He grew up in the rough world of the Scottish working class, and afterwards that of England. He learned from his father to tell lies, and later to lie about his father. " This book was written by a man who has a masterful grasp of language and brings it to its very extremes. Told meticulously, flexibly and generously, the story of the lie recounted in the book is in fact far more truthful than anything that can be spoken", wrote Hilary Mantel in the respected London Review of BooksMr Minister, Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,
I am very happy to be presenting the European Prize for Literature that bears my name for the seventh time. Today, more than ever, I believe in the power of words. Words that bring us closer together, words that transmit feelings, words that unite people regardless of borders. I believe in the power of style. I believe in the power of culture, which is able to strengthen the kind of European unity I desired and to which I wished to make a contribution.
Among the many novels submitted, the panel of judges chose to honour John Burnside's book A Lie about My Father, a moving and powerful novel which seems to have been penned with a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through the relationship of pure, unadulterated hatred that exists here between a child and his father. The book in fact describes a search for self-identity, a search that unfolds through the images, memories and lies of a hateful parent. How can we avoid seeing in ourselves all that reminds the boy of his father and his heritage of lies? Does evil have its own deceptive paths along which it draws us without our noticing it? How can we overcome the ugly side of reality if the line from which we are descended insidiously sucks us into it? Against all expectations, this writer proves in his book that we can surmount even situations like this – the slow descent into hell. His message is that the evil spirit of destruction can be conquered. We thank John Burnside for this deep and wise tale, which ends in a picture of successful liberation from the darkest possible family legacy. Thank you for this great novel and the message it contains which infuses hope and trust in man.
My decision to present this prize in Paris stemmed from my desire to honour the French language. Therefore, it is only right that, alongside the main prize, good translations should also be rewarded. Consequently, Catherine Richard who successfully translated this novel into French likewise receives a prize for her wonderful translation.
Finally, I should like to congratulate the Métailié publishing house which celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this autumn.We are here to present the seventh Madlena Zepter European Prize for Literature. This award is given to a writer who has published a work this year. It is a European award for a European writer in the broader sense because it was the intention of Madlena Zepter, who established the prize, to contribute to strengthening the cultural unity of the European continent and to reinforce the links between writers and media in different countries. For the influence of these writers is often restricted by language and other barriers. Herself a Serb, Madlena Zepter, is the wife of industrialist Philip Zepter whose company trades all over the world. The Zepter shop on the Boulevard St. Germain shows what this company produces in the fields of household articles and appliances, home design, and cosmetics. Mrs Zepter's activities as a patron of the arts evince enormous admiration for the huge range they cover, as well as for her own consistency and perseverance. Apart from her publishing activity in Belgrade, she has built an opera house where French troupes and orchestras perform among others. Yesterday saw the presentation of an international award for design, which she also established like today's prize for literature, over whose panel of judges I am honoured to preside. The authors to whom we have awarded this prize for the past seven years are recognised in their own countries, but our award has allowed them to earn acclaim outside their native borders. I should particularly like to thank Michel Déon, member of the French Academy, Mrs Dominique Bona, Franz Olivier Giesbert, all members of the jury for the Renodo prize, then Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, Frédéric Beigbeder, Patrick Besson, Eric Neuhoff and Raoul Mille, earlier and current holders of this prize, and Vladan Radoman and Jacques Gantié, for their sterling work in connection with this award. I owe a special debt of gratitude to Madlena Zepter for honouring the literary tradition of our capital in deciding to present the prize she founded here in Paris. She deserves our thanks for her extraordinary effort and activity in the arts field and I think this has been duly noted by those charged with cultural affairs in our government.
Now let us proceed to this year's winner. After fierce debate, the Madlena Zepter European Prize for Literature this year goes to John Burnside for his novel A Lie about My Father, published by the publishing house of Anne-Marie Métailié. Over the course of time, this publishing house has earned an enviable and deserved reputation in Parisian literary circles. It is a happy coincidence that this publishing house also celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year.
This lovely novel by John Burnside was translated from English by Mrs Catherine Richard, who will likewise receive an award because Madlena Zepter is convinced, and rightly so, that the work of the literary translator of exceptional importance. I should like to congratulate John Burnside for his book and Mrs Métailié on her publishing house's thirtieth anniversary. I call upon the winner to come and receive his prize, which will be presented by Madlena Zepter."Un mensonge sur mon père" de John Burnside, Prix Littéraire Européen Madeleine Zepter 2009
A British scriptwriter and novelist, Ian McEwan was born in Aldershot in 1948. He studied at Sussex University in East Anglia where he was the first graduate in a creative writing course created by Malcolm Bradbury. After 1980, Ian McEwan made his presence known in the literary world with two new collections, First Love, Last Rites (1975) and In Between the Sheets (1978), and an unfinished translation into French in one volume, Premier amour, derniers rites. McEwan is fascinated by the perverse and the prohibited. He explores the most bizarre sexual fantasies, the extreme excessiveness to which love can drive you: crimes of passion, sadistic crimes……With him, evil lies in wait, hiding beneath the mask of banality in everyday life, questioning normality and innocence. First Love, Last Rites was rewarded the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976. It was followed by novels and many radio plays. The Child in Time published in 1987 evoked the difficulty faced by parents in coming to terms with the kidnapping of their child. The book was awarded the Prix Femina Etranger in 1993. McEwan’s universe is a sordid world where permeated by permanent unease. Between the thriller and the psychological novel, in Enduring Love (1997), an apotheosis of black comedy and cruelty, we discover the agony of obsession and ambiguity that takes its place between the obsessed and his obsession. In 1998, the author received the Booker Prize for Amsterdam (1998). In this story 4 important personages confront each other: the husband and three lovers of a deceased woman. Unusual and insolent, provocative and highly original, the work of Ian McEwan surprises by its turn of events, its conciseness and humour. The author plays with mysteries that are the essence of narration. All his novels, are to some degree linked, and mockingly so, with the crime story. Ian McEwan is a member of the Royal Society of Literature, the Royal Society of Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2000, he was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire.Sur la Plage de ChesilThey were young, educated, and both virgin before their first wedding night, living in times where it was practically impossible to talk about sexual problems. On their wedding night, Edward Mayhew and Florence Ponting finally find themselves alone in the old country Inn in Dorset where they have come to spend their honeymoon. But in 1962, in the England before the sexual revolution, one cannot get rid of one’s inhibitions or the burden of the past. The hopes and fears of this young historian and this promising young violinist rapidly transform their first night into an ordeal of facing the truth where nothing happens according to the expected scenario. In this disturbing novel, with its brilliantly rhythmic alternating viewpoints and the haunting presence of nature, Ian McEwan excels once again at creating ambiguity and isolating those revealing moments which change the course of a lifetime.Madam Minister, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to welcome you to the sixth award of the Literary Prize that bears my name. We live in troubled times. Wars, famine, worldwide financial crisis, the resurgence of tribal hatred, even within Europe, are at the heart of everyone’s concerns. In the beginning was the verb: the expression of our thoughts into words. Only words are able to bring us together and pass on culture between peoples. I believe in the magic of words, in the contagious force of emotion, in the strength of style. For six years now this award has allowed prizewinners already well known in their own countries to introduce their work to new readers. This year the jury has chosen to present the award to Ian McEwan for his novel “Sur la Plage de Chesil”. Ian McEwan is one of the most talented British writers of his generation, who brilliantly treats relations between men and women. “Sur la plage de Chesnil” relates ironically to the stormy first night for a newly married couple. A young couple lost in the inhibitions of the Sixties. This novel is has admirable pace, its rhythms reflected in the viewpoints of the characters. Because of an unspoken word or an unmade gesture the rest of their lives will be forever changed. I am very pleased, Ian McEwan, that you decided to participate in the construction of this great home that is Europe. Thank you.European unity, so difficult to achieve, still manages to flow in the cultural sphere and it has fallen to a Serb to provide its symbolic illustration. In her role as patron of the arts dedicated to all aspects of creativity, Madeleine Zepter decided to create a European Literary Prize, over whose jury I have the honour to preside. For six years now, the jury has chosen the author of a novel published in France. The list of laureates is proof of its influence: the prize-winning authors were all famous in their own countries and this award has enabled them to go beyond their frontiers increasing their readership. The choice of our capital for the award ceremony is proof of the literary vocation of France. The quality of the jury underlines the importance of an idea that forms a highpoint in late autumn breaking into the middle of the Parisian literary season. Thanks to the unflagging activity of Madeleine Zepter, I am delighted and proud to be able to express my gratitude to my strong cultural roots.Ian McEwan, lauréat 2008 et Madeleine Zepter, présidente d'honneur du jury
John Danville was born in Wexford, Ireland in 1945, then moved to live in Dublin. Since the beginning his literary works have been rewarded by many Literary Grands Prix. With The Sea, he was rewarded the most prestigious out of them being: the Booker Prize. His other books, Eclipse (2002), Impostures (2003) and Athena (2005) were equally published with Robert Laffont, part of the collection “Pavillons”.The SeaPresentation Anna died before sunrise. To tell you the truth I wasn’t there when it happened. I was going up and down the staircase to the Clinique catching a breath of the dark but glossy dawn air. And during this calm, gloomy moment, I thought about the years before, in the water, during that much talked about summer in Ballymoins. I went swimming along, I don’t know why and I don’t know where Chloé and Myles have gone; probably they had gone somewhere with their parents, it was probably one of the last trips they did together if not the very last maybe. “After his wife died , Max takes refuge in a little village by the sea where, as a child, he spent a summer that would change the rest of his life. Assailed by sadness, grief stricken by life without Anna, Max understands what really happened, that summer back then. Understand why “the past is beating in him, like a second heart”.My friends, here we are reunited again for the fifth edition of the European Literary Prize that bears my name. Accompanied by my loyal companions, each one of them book lovers like me, I can look to the future in order to follow my mission which I hold deeply in my heart : by helping to spread the seeds of beauty all over the world. This year, it was with great joy to carry out an exhibition in Monaco of the magnificent sculptures of Dzamonja, to give a series of representations of “Miserables” at Madlenianum my opera in Belgrade, to award the literary prize “Plume feminine” of which I am equally Patron, and to organise the ArtZep exhibitions in Kazakhstan, Romania and Hungary. I sometimes wonder what drives this perpetual quest. I saw in a dream the title of a book that I read in my childhood “The noble gesture”. A popular novel, written by a now forgotten author. A book probably a little naïve but full of good feelings and exoticism, describing adventures and brotherhood between men. I was at the time seven years old with a great need to dream but I had already the certitude that to achieve noble gestures would be my motto through life. Thank you, Percival Wren. British too! Because the jury have decided to award the Prize to an Irish writer : John Banville. We were seduced by the way in which you treated the most commonly used subject in worldwide literature, a simple subject but also diverse and complicated: the life of a man. His style appearing somewhat casual has restored freshness into childhood, a modesty never seen in the turmoil of adolescence, giving a sour taste to the sea and to death. Please also be aware that this year we have decided to be innovative in awarding also a Prize to the translator of this prizewinning book. We reward Michele Albaret Maatsh for the quality of his work.A united Political Europe is not yet apparent, but the strong united European culture is evident. Dependant of the same heritages, our different peoples all over the continent aspire to the same developments. It is with this in mind that Madeleine Zepter decided 5 years ago to create a Literary Prize open to all European writers. The awarding of this Prize in Paris was wished by Madeleine Zepter by way of tribute to French literary history. Two new members have just joined our prestigious jury that I have the honour to preside over: Dominique Bona and Frederic Beigbeder. These two friends will enrich our debates and I am sure that the laureate of this year will be worthy of his predecessors, who have all acquired reputation well beyond that of their respective country’s frontiers. As well as the author Madeleine Zepter has decided to award the translator of the prizewinning book. This happy innovation reflects a wanting to promote an essential person in the building of a European conscience: the passer of languages. She is enrolled in a cultural activism that aims to promote a more united Europe, anxious to revive ethic and aesthetic sources. As much as to say that, Madeleine Zepter supports a worthy cause. I am extremely grateful and proud to help her, so much as a French writer and a Citizen of literary Europe.Son Excellence Monsieur Henri Lopez - Ambassadeur de la République du Congo, Jean Brousse
Per Petterson, born in 1952, was a bookseller for many years, then author and translator before publishing his first book in 1987, Aske que je munnen, skoa du sable I (Ash in the mouth and shoes full of sand; a collection of news). This book was praised as being the most sensational literary debut of the decade. Since that time, he has written 5 novels, which have earned him the reputation of being one of Norway’s most important novelists. They are Ekkoland (1989), Det er greit for meg (1992), Jusqu’en Siberie (1996), Dans le Sillage (2000) and Pas facile de voler les Chevaux (2003).
For Jusqu’en Siberie, Petterson was nominated for the Literary Prize of the Nordic Council, and the Dublin IMPAC International Literary Prize. For Dans le Sillage, he was awarded the prestigious Brageprisen Norwegian Literary Prize and was also nominated for the Prize for Best Foreign Novel.
Pas facile a voler les chevaux was awarded the English Prize for best foreign novel and also the Norwegian Booksellers’ Critics Prize for the best novel. He was likewise selected for the French Medicis Prize. In addition, Pas facile a voler les chevaux is amongst the 25 best Norwegian books written during the past 25 years. The book sold more than 150,000 copies in Norwegian and remained on the bestseller list for more than 70 weeks. The novel has been translated into 18 languages including French, German and English.Pas facile de voler les chevauxSummer 1948. Trond is 15 years old and is very happy to be alone with his father on vacation in a village near the Swedish border. He meets up with his friend Jon who suggests one morning that they go and steal some horses. What he actually means is that they borrow the horses of a local landowner to go riding. Trond accepts, but the story has a sad ending for him. He falls from the horse, hurts himself, and watches helplessly as his friend explodes strangely with rage and violence. His father tells him that the day before a terrible accident had happened in Jon’s family, and Jon leaves the village soon after. Trond spends the rest of the summer in the company of his father. When a neighbour tells him that his father used to be an active member of the Resistance during the occupation of Norway, he does not yet realise that the dramatic events of the Second World War are about to cast a shadow over his family and take his father away from him. More than 50 years later, Trond decides to retire to the Norwegian countryside. He has the feeling that his dreams of peace are becoming a reality when, one evening, he meets his neighbour Lars, Jon’s little brother.Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Here we are again on our cultural voyage. For the fourth award ceremony of the Madeleine Zepter Prize, after honouring an Irishman, and Italian and a Spaniard, this year the jury has awarded the prize to a Norwegian author, Per Petterson, who has been chosen from a large number of candidates Let me share a memory with you. I recall a writer friend telling me of his reflections “For thousands of years, man has felt the need to tell stories, to put them down in writing, to pass them onto others, and absolutely everything has already been said, painted and described. The colours of the dawn, the colours of the sky and the sea, human relations, wars, love and hate”. I interrupted him, saying “Then tell me – why do you go on writing?” Not in the least bothered, as if he had been expecting my question, he replied with a childish grin “Now it’s my turn to look for my own light” Dear Per Petterson, with your style and your modesty, I know that you have found your personal light. And I thank you.In the name of the jury over which I preside, I am going to announce the winner of the 4th Madeleine Zepter European Literary Prize. This jury is very illustrious and impossible to manage at the same time! We have Michel Déon of the French Academy, Michel Mohrt, also of the French Academy but unfortunately unwell, Patrick Poivre d’Arvor an Interallié jury member, Franz Olivier Renaudot, Eric Neuhoff another Interallié jury member, Raoul Mille (a former Interallié winner), Jacques Gantier literary critic of Nice-Matin, Vladan Radoman a Serbian writer – and myself. The jury will be extended next year by the addition of Dominique Bona, a Renaudot jury member and author of a superb book about the Claudels – Paul and Camille, amongst others. This generous prize is awarded to a European writer who has, during the year, written a book, or had it translated, in the French language. This award is part and parcel of the acts of patronage of Madeleine Zepter who has for over 15 years devoted herself to asserting a European cultural identity. Madeleine Zepter is Serbian. Philip Zepter, her husband, heads a large and extremely important commercial group encompassing over 40 countries worldwide. Madeleine Zepter’s patronage is impressive. She has set up an opera house in Belgrade, a publishing house, an art gallery, and an auction house. Her foundation offers scholarships to talented students in many different fields, who need financial help. In addition, she has established a Design Prize, also awarded in Paris. The fact that this literary prize is awarded here and for a book that has been translated into French shows the Francophile nature of its initiator and reflects the literary prestige of our capital. And this gives us great pleasure. A book is due to appear in January that will be dedicated to to broad spectrum of Madame Zepter’s activities. It will be offered to the jury members and leading figures on the French cultural scene. Patrick Besson alluded to this in his Point magazine column. This book describes the admirable work being undertaken by someone who has been herself hurt by the dramatic events taking place in her region and who is trying hard to garner goodwill around an ideal, Europe, a true European culture of all its nations. Madeleine has recently created the “Women’s Pen” award, a literary prize destined for a woman writer. The Madeleine Zepter Literary Prize has honoured writers in such a way as to enhance still more their reputations in their homelands and throughout the continent. The very first prize was awarded to John O’Connor for his novel “L’etoile des mers” (Phoebus) The second prize was awarded to Margaret Mazzantini, for Ecoute-Moi (Robert Laffont) The third prize was awarded to Andres Trapiello, for A la Mort de Don Quichotte (Buchet Chastel). Now for this year’s, fourth prize. Our jury has democratically selected Norwegian writer Per Petterson, for his novel Pas facile de voler des chevaux, published by Gallimard and translated into French by Terje Sinding. Serbian writer, Goran Petrovic received several votes for his book Le Siège de l’église Saint Sauveur, Serbie (Seuil) I should first like to congratulate the prizewinner – in French – and then give the floor to Madeleine Zepter, who will present him with the award. Thank you.Madeleine Zepter, Jacques Gantié, Per Petterson lauréat 2006, Vladan Radoman
Andrés Trapiello was born in Manzaneda de Torio , Leon in 1953. In 1975 he moved to Madrid where he lives to this day. Writer, poet and essayist , he is also an editor and journalist. He has worked with various publications, notably the weekly review La Vanguardia and has participated in a TV programme on culture. A renowned literary figure in Spain, Andres Trapiello is the author of important poetic works and of 6 novels including “Les Cahiers de Justo Garcia” (Buchet-Chastel, 2004)
“A LA MORT DE DON QUICHOTTE” was awarded the Spanish prize “José Manuel Lara” in 2004, given for the best novel of the year written in Castilian Spanish. In his speech of thanks, Andres Trapiello admitted that he was extremely proud as “even Cervantès himself had never won this prize” !A la mort de Don Quichotte (Buchet-Chastel)A la mort de don Quichotte is a fascinating novel which takes as its point of departure the greatest Spanish literary work of all time. It is in fact at the moment when Don Quichotte de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantès finishes that the novel of Trapiello starts: at the reading of his newly-finished will. Don Quixote dies, surrounded amongst others by the priest Don Pedro, the barber Nicholas, the student Samson Carrasco, and Sancho Panza. These are only a few of the characters in this passionate novel, which mixes intrigue, comedy and freedom. Because for Andrés Trapiello, and especially for Sancho Panza and the student, the death of Don Quixote is the ideal occasion on which to avenge the Knight with the Sad Face”, to take their revenege in his name on those who took advantage of his sheer madness by being stupid and nasty. In this year celebrating 400 years since Cervantes and publication of Don Quixote in 1605, A la Mort de don Quichotte is a brilliant reminder of how this successor to one of the great classics of Spanish literature is itself becoming a great classic of contemporary literature.Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, This year of memories where we celebrate the four centuries of Cervantes and the publication of his immortal work, I am pleased by the decision of the Jury to award this Prize to Andres Trapiello. Andres, you brilliantly reproduced the humour, moods, and the genius of your illustrious predecessor. Thank you Andres. You were able to offer his revenge to Don Quichotte. You explained him; you pared him down from the ridiculous, giving him another face than that of the chevalier with the sad one. You were able to put down in words the praise of sheer madness; you returned wisdom into dreams, these dreams which are also our dreams. I quote the words of one of the characters in your novel: “Me too, my friends, I sometimes doubt and say to myself that the price of ones madness is negligible if one considers what it brings to us all. But before Art, there is life, before talent, there is common sense, and before airs and graces there is reason, even though this latter is full of stern manners….. Gentlemen, I am finished…….”Political Europe is suffering and the ideal that supervised its construction is faltering these days. And yet Europe exists. From the Baltic to the Balkans, from the Celtic to the Latin - the Europe of sensibilities. Cultural Europe is a reality, alive and even rich. Our heritage may be polychromatic, but we share what we need to perpetuate our legacy from the Greeks, Romans, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants not forgetting the Jews. We are the healers of the Middle Ages, of the “Renaissance” and Classical eras, of the Age of Enlightenment, Romanticism, and their successors. We are European, and possibly writers more than others are conscious of the necessity to multiply our dialogues and our exchanges and ensure that tomorrow this old continent rediscovers its radiant culture. It is in this perspective that my friend, Madeleine Zepter, decided 3 years ago to create this European Literary Prize. It is an award to the author of a novel translated into French, a European author of course, whether he be a citizen of a country in the European Union or from a country waiting to join the European Union, like Serbia and Montenegro for example, the homeland of Madeleine Zepter. I am very honoured to preside over this extremely prestigious jury which has so far crowned Joseph O’Connor, for “L’Etoile des Mers and Margaret Mazzantini for “Ecoute-moi” This year our choice falls on Andrés Trapiello for his work “A la mort de Don Quichotte” (Buchet-Chastel) What is more European than Cervantès – and Spain during the Golden Age? In this remarkable book, Trapiello imagined what happened in the close entourage of the Knight with the Sad Face. It is a funny, profoundly moving book and I congratulate the author. Madeleine Zepter is going to hand him his prize. Along with her husband Philip Zepter, Madeleine heads a large and extremely important industrial group, that shines throughout Eastern Europe and beyond. Her activities as a patron of the arts are significant besides this prize she sponsors also a Design Prize created in Belgrade and a theatre, which already occupies a central place in Serbian cultural life. On behalf of the jury, I would like to thank her.André Orizet, Denis Tillinac,Jacques Toubon, Michel Mohrt et Vladan Radoman
Margaret Mazzatini was born in Dublin 42 years ago. Her mother is an Irish painter and her father an Italian writer. An actress married to an Italian actor and film director, Margaret hosts a television programme called “Album” dedicated to the recent history of her country Italy. In 2002 she won the Italian Goncourt prize ,“Le Premio Strga”. Ecoute Moi” (her first novel to be translated into French) (”Listen to Me” in English) is her 2nd novel and has already been translated in 15 countries. It is likewise the basis of a scenario for the film Italia starring Penelope Cruz. This film has already received many awards.
Bibliography “il cantino de zinco” 1994 “Ecoute Moi”, Edition Robert Laffont, 2004Ecoute-moiTimeteo, a young doctor, has just been informed that his 15 year old daughter, Angela, has had a scooter accident. He assists in the operation performed by his fellow surgeon. His wife, Elsa, currently away travelling, learns of the tragic accident. The whole operation provides the start to the film, during which the father confesses to his daughter. Courageously he reveals to her secrets from his life. From her birth to this operation, where we wonder if she will escape death, we learn of his passion for Italia, his mistress. The whole novel swings between life and death, love and desire and most of all between the three women. We hold our breath right to the end of his confessions. A story full of memories stacked up one on top of the other like bricks, where adventures and eroticism come and go like the tides of the sea. At the beginning of a very promising literary career, Margaret Mazzantini offers a wonderful description of this man’s psychological make-up, a man who from the start never wanted to be a doctor from the start, unable to stand the sight of blood. Beautiful writing…and hopefully more to followYour Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, members of the jury…
One year has gone by since the beginning of this adventure of which I am very proud. My emotion is as intense at this moment as when we awarded the very first Madeleine Zepter European Literary Prize last year to Joseph O’Connor. I thank you for your attendance.
In the meantime, Europe has grown, other peoples are integrating into a new society where there is still much to do regarding political, economical and humanitarian issues. Thanks to the contribution of our jury members, men of French letters and all all Europeans at heart, cosmopolitan through their literary vocation, we participate in our own way in the cultural construction of our new home. In the near future we will see a larger Europe, one day, rapidly I hope, my homeland Serbia will overcome the problems preventing it from joining this great project. One step ahead of politics, we have this year broadened the selection of authors to include those from countries waiting to join the European Union.
I am extremely please to present this prize to Margaret Mazzantini, a writer who has deeply moved us with her novel “Ecoute Moi” (in English Don’t Move). She has been able to describe, almost reach out and touch sentiment, this passion, so complex and ambiguous that is Love. Margaret said “Ecoute moi” (in English “Don’t Move”)…… We have heard her
I thank you for your attention.We now proceed to presentation of the 2nd Madeleine Zepter European Literary Prize. This award, as you know, goes to the author of the best novel by a European writer that has been published in the French language during the current year.
The best according to the jury over which I have the honour to preside. The jury consists of two academicians Michel Mohrt and Michel Déon, who sadly is not with us today because of ill health, as well as Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, Franz Olivier Giesbert, Patrick Besson, Raoul Mille, Jacques Gantier et Vladan Radoman. We are greatly saddened by the absence of my friend, Yves Berger, who was a member of this prestigious jury, and no less enthusiastic during our deliberations. This writer whose work has been honoured many times by other juries, this influential editor and leading figure of the Parisian literary world read a book through the eyes of a child sinking deeply into its depths, and defending it if need be. Marie Claire Berger, is with us today and she understands how much we miss our “jovial man from the South”, full of culture and mischief and a loyal friend.
The founder of this prize is my friend Madeleine Zepter. The Zepter family, Serbian from Belgrade, have created and run a very important industrial enterprise, specialising in table art, cosmetics and jewellery, produced and marketed over Europe.
In establishing and awarding this Prize, Madeleine Zepter wishes to underline the importance of culture in the difficult but patient construction of a united and spiritually fertile Europe.
Even though political Europe makes slow progess, cultural Europe exists. We owe everything we know to Jerusalem, Athens and Rome. On Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman soils, our peoples wove a civilisation pluralist and homogenous at the same time based on metaphysical, aesthetic, rural and legislative premises.
Coming from a region particularly tested by our historical divisions, Madeleine Zepter wanted her literary prize to be based in Paris – what an honour for French Literature– thereby showing her commitment to the European ideal. Of course, the Balkans belong to Europe, as Western civilisation has fashioned it and I sincerely hope that the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro can join the European Union as quickly as possible. In a way we are a step ahead of history because we have decided that writers from the Balkan countries may also compete for the Madeleine Zepter Prize.
And now the verdict of the jury before I pass the floor to Madeleine Zepter. The Madeleine Zepter European Prize has been awarded this year to Margaret Mazzantini for her novel, Ecoute Moi, published by Robert Laffont and translated by Vincent Raynaud.
Congratulations Mme. Mazzantini. You are a well-known writer and literary figure in Italy and your novel has been made into a film by your husband film director Sergio Castellitto. Madeleine Zepter will now present the award. Thank you.
Madeleine et Philip Zepter en compagnie de la Princesse Marina de Savoie et le Prince Victor Emmanuel de Savoie
Joseph O'Connor was born in Dublin in September 1963. He attended UCD from 1981 to 1986, gaining a first class honours BA in English, and a first class honours MA in Anglo-Irish literature. Thereafter he attended Oxford University for a brief period, before leaving to work for the British Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign. In 1988 he gave up his job and became a full-time writer. He lived in London and is currently residing in Dublin.L'Etoile des mersSpring 1847. L’etoile des Mers, Captain Josias Lockwod leaves Ireland for New York with his lot of passengers who represent the sad present and improbable future of their strange world. The horror of the grand famine and the only way to escape it for most of the habitants of the island is exile. On board, a dozen privileged people sharing first class cabins : a family of English landowners established in the lush green Erin since an eternity and recently ruined, their formerly big hearted servant, a New York journalist, a man of the church, a maharajah curious to discover the world. And further down the hull, stuck in the stockroom, 400 ordinary passengers piled up in the most promiscuously, soon to be decimated by the typhus. Amongst these latter, a murderer nicknamed “Ghost” hired by a group of extremists wanting to export their dreams of violence to the New World…. L’etoile des Mers – we can have confidence in O’Connor’s craftiness – is not a historical oeuvre; more like a novel using history to shake up the present so terribly hard – our present. Of all the author’s published works to date (translated into 28 languages) this one has been the most warmly welcomed by lecturers and literary critics alike.I am immensely grateful to you to have accompanied me in the launching of this great adventure: the creation of a literary prize. Editor in my country, now known as Serbia-Montenegro, it is more customary for me being involved in business initiatives within the framework of Foundations linked with the Opera, plastic arts, and also university grants. This prize, which concerns Europe, will be awarded in France, the language of which is particularly dear to us. Why Europe? Why the European Union? The choice, without a doubt, is revealing of an ambiguity: if we have the feeling of belonging to the “Old Europe”, we are nonetheless falling towards the “Other Europe”, the one which does not yet have access to the “New Europe”. The Europe made up of the 25 predicted countries that have manifested or will manifest their willingness to enter, as Poland has done recently. Without aspiring identifying myself with the desire for Europeanization, as have the renowned initiators Jean Monnet or Robert Schuman, why not just simply follow the road which takes us to more understanding? The Spiritual Europe; Europe of Mankind, Artistic and literary Europe. Using Literature to decipher continents is also revisiting this land full of rich and diverse cultures respecting each ones individualities. I am very pleased to receive you today in this residence. The residence of the princes Karadjordjevic the destiny of which is an era merged with that of my country, enabling me to bring to life these walls in such circumstances, strengthening thus our cultural ties, our friendship, both old between France and Serbia. Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your support, as I too thank the juries to have wanted to adhere to the idea of a European Literary Prize.Being a French writer, coming from “somewhere else”, I am honoured to present the MZ European Literary Prize. Inspired by Madeleine Zepter, enthusiastic about the idea of cultural enlargement, and the fraternity of writers within the whole of the European Union, I took charge of organising this event. A continent in movement, changing political structures, a communion of languages, traditions and spirits still to build, we have wished, within our limits to participate in such an adventure. Through our history generosity and curiosity aesthetics have never stopped harmonising. A fusion sometimes turbulent, fortune and arts, a lively couple, apparently not destined to life together, has the grand merit to have survived the centuries. Following the tradition of French and Serbian Patrons of the Arts, Madeleine Zepter being a member of the industrial world, has already invested herself in various cultural and humanitarian causes in Yugoslavia Ukraine and Madagascar. In creating the European Literary Prize she anticipates politics, develops the imagination and spirit of a federation that just keeps growing. As we have set it out, this Prize will award the novel of an author coming from one of the European Union countries, which has been translated and published in France, or from a European author writing in French language. We regret that our native land is not yet part of the European framework. May this creation contribute, even modestly, to the rapid integration of Serbia Montenegro into the European Union. We thank the personalities making up the jury of wanting to be part of this idea.Joseph O’Connor, Madeleine Zepter, Michel Rocard, Denis Tillinac, Philip Zepter