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Inaugural EBRD Literature Prize Winner announced

11th April 2018

Inaugural EBRD Literature Prize Winner Announced

Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sonmez

Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez and translated from Turkish by Ümit Hussein has won the first EBRD Literature Prize. The author and translator will share the €20,000 prize money. Chair of Judges, Rosie Goldsmith, called Istanbul Istanbul 'a life-affirming novel of profound humanity and exquisite writing. ' 


Set after a military coup, the novel is a love song to Istanbul inspired by the author’s own experiences. Burhan Sönmez is an internationally prize-winning novelist who worked as a human rights lawyer in Istanbul and was a founder of the social-activist culture organisation TAKSAV (Foundation for Social Research, Culture and Art). In 1996 Sönmez was seriously injured after being assaulted by police and moved to the UK to receive treatment with the support of Freedom from Torture in London. Sönmez is member of Turkish PEN and English PEN. He is a founding member of the 'Writers Circle' at PEN International and currently lectures in Literature and Novel at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara. Ümit Hussein is a British translator and interpreter of Turkish Cypriot origin. She has translated the work of Nevin Halıcı, Mehmet Yashin and Ahmet Altan, among others.  


The two runner-up titles, All the World’s a Stage by Boris Akunin and translated from Russian by Andrew Bromfield and Belladonna by Daša Drndic, translated from Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth, received €2,000, also split between author and translator. 


The EBRD is a multilateral development bank, created after the fall of the Berlin wall to help emerging economies move towards open markets. The Bank launched the prize in recognition of the vibrancy of its region’s literature, and encompasses literary fiction originally written in a language from one of the 37 economies where the Bank invests, translated into English and published by a UK publisher. The Prize was launched last year in partnership with the British Council and The London Book Fair. 


Find out more about the Prize on the EBRD website.

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Istanbul, Istanbul
Burhan Sonmez; Hussein Umit
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