Czech author Bianca Bellová wins EBRD Literature Prize for The Lake

Bellová and Alex Zucker, who translated the novel into English, accepted the prestigious literary award on Thursday evening in London. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 17.06.2023 12:37:00 (updated on 17.06.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Czech author Bianca Bellová has been awarded the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Literature Prize for her novel The Lake (Jezero), which was translated into English by Alex Zucker and released last spring by Parthian Books.

The EBRD, which celebrates "literary richness" in 40 countries across Europe, Asia and Africa, announced the news on Twitter. The original Czech version of The Lake had previously won a European Union Prize for Literature as well as a Czech Magnesia Litera Award in 2017.

Awarded since 2018, the shortlist for this year's EBRD Literature Prize included books by renowned authors such as Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk from Poland (for The Books of Jacob), and Lebanon's Najwa Barakat (Mister N). The EBRD jury, led by Toby Lichtig, a literary critic for The Times Literary Supplement, ultimately selected Bellová's The Lake as the winner.

The EBRD Literature Prize is open to newly-published English translations of books from countries where the bank operates. The prize is jointly awarded to the author and translator, with a financial reward of €20,000 (approximately 470,000 Czech crowns).

The Lake is a dystopian tale set in a post-Soviet landscape ravaged by ruthless plundering, following the journey of a teenage boy searching for his mother. The novel portrays Russians as the primary antagonists, representing brutal behavior, environmental destruction, and military force.

Inspired by a report on the drying up of the Aral Sea, Bellová crafted a compelling narrative that has garnered critical acclaim since its original release in 2017, picking up numerous awards before the EBRD prize.

Previous winners of the EBRD Literature Prize include Turkish writer Burhan Sönmezr in 2018, Uzbek journalist and novelist Hamid Ismailov in 2019, Lithuanian novelist Grigorijus Kanovičius in 2020, Polish author Szczepan Twardoch in 2021, and Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan last year for his novel Boarding School.

Bellová is the first woman and first Czech to win the EBRD Literature Prize. Two Czech books had previously been nominated for the award: Hana, by Alena Mornštajnová, and City of Torment, by Daniela Hodrová.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development was established in 1991 to assist former communist countries in transitioning to market economies. Initially focused on investments in the private sector, the bank expanded its activities to other regions such as the Middle East, the Caucasus, and North Africa after the successful transformation of Central European countries, including the Czech Republic.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more