Prix Jan Michalski:
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The Jan Michalski Prize for Literature is awarded annually for an outstanding work of world literature.

The Jan Michalski Prize for Literature has been awarded annually since 2010 by the Foundation to crown a work of world literature. An original feature of the Prize is its multicultural nature: it rewards works of all literary genres, fiction or non-fiction, irrespective of the language in which it is written.

The rotating jury, which is renewed every three years, is made up of writers recognized for their linguistic skills and their openness to literary diversity. An artist with an interest in literature is also given a seat.

The laureate is honored with a prize of CHF 50,000, which allows him/her to devote more time to his/her writing. He or she also receives a work of art specially chosen for him or her.

Edition 2023

The 2023 Jan Michalski Prize for Literature has been awarded to Karina Sainz Borgo for her novel El Tercer País (Lumen, 2021). The French translation from the Spanish (Venezuela) by Stéphanie Decante is titled Le Tiers Pays (Gallimard, 2023).

Laureate, Finalists, Second selection, First selection, Jury.
Karina Sainz Borgo
El Tercer País
Lumen, Barcelona, 2021

Proposed by Andrea Marcolongo


Portrait © Diego Lafuente, Penguin Random House

© Diego Lafuente, Penguin Random House

The jury hails “a powerful novelistic world that brilliantly combines several literary traditions such as Greek tragedy, magic realism, and American Westerns, to take an uncompromising yet humane look at the dramas of migration.” The jury also underlines “the virtuosity of a prose that is at once allegorical, luminous and serious, leading us to meet female characters so strong they live beyond the page, struggling in a border cemetery, an ambivalent, in-between space where all the horror and beauty of the world, the living and the dead, reality and fantasy, the past, the present and the future, come together.”

The winner of the 2023 Jan Michalski Prize for Literature, El Tercer País tells the story of an unexpected friendship between two women brought together at the border of separate worlds by the death of one woman’s infants and the illegal cemetery that protects the other. It is at the limits of a land that is uncertain, pulled apart by opposing forces, and whose imaginary outlines conjure up Latin America.

Angustias Romero, a migrant whose first name points to misfortune, travels the more than eight hundred kilometers separating the Eastern and Western sierras carrying her husband, rendered ghostly by a strange epidemic of amnesia, and her two babies, who have died on the road to exile. Determined to give a proper grave to those who “time and dust have joined to [her] hands, as they had been to [her] womb,” she meets Visitación Salazar, the extravagant guardian of the cemetery that bears her name. The latter initiates Angustias in the art of paying one’s last respects by preparing bodies and digging and decorating graves. Between these two opposite yet complementary characters a bond forms that is forged of solidarity, compassion and sisterhood, and underpinned by the fundamental demand for the right to offer a final refuge to those who have been abandoned by both society and politics. Re-interpreting the mythological figure of Antigone, the two women come together to preserve their little island devoted to the deceased from the greed of men who fear nor God nor law. They confront the blind violence of smugglers, drug traffickers, guerrillas, potentates, and other local tyrants, and doing so, stand as fierce guardians of what can still be saved of humanity, deep in a land riven by dire poverty and corruption.

Throughout a narrative that over and over speeds up, reveals reversals, and shoots off in a completely different direction, the incisive and dazzling writing in El Tercer País offers fragments that shine in the dark of a setting has a decidedly dystopian look. While Venezuela and Colombia can be glimpsed behind the invented geography, fiction allows Sainz Borgo to develop a common language around the immigration crises in not only South America but throughout the rest of the world as well. Seizing on the fate that is reserved for migrants, whose dignity is not respected and deaths afforded no honor, the author narrates the cruelty of our contemporary issues with a hint of poignant allegory.

As winner of the 2023 Jan Michalski Prize for Literature, Karina Sainz Borgo will receive CHF 50,000 as well as a special edition artist’s book by Gilles Aillaud selected for her: Tauromachie from Atelier Franck Bordes, copy no. 63/101 on Velin d’Arches paper, printed 7 March 1996, with 24 lithographs done between 1992 and 1995, and texts by Eduardo Arroyo and Carlos Abella.

Biography

Karina Sainz Borgo was born in 1982 in Caracas, Venezuela, where she started a career in journalism, writing for the daily El Nacional. She settled in Madrid in 2006 and has worked as a political and cultural columnist with several Spanish media outlets, including ABC, Vozpópuli and Zenda. She has published three books of journalism, Caracas hip-hop (Cooltura, 2007), Cuatro reportajes, dos décadas, una historia: Tráfico y Guaire, el país y sus intelectuales (Fundación para la Cultura Urbana, 2007), and Crónicas barbitúricas (Círculo de Tiza, 2019). Her first work of fiction, La hija de la española (the English version by Elizabeth Bryer is entitled It Would Be Night in Caracas, HarperVia, 2019), has been translated into some twenty other languages. The novel imagines the fate of a young woman grappling with a civil war that has left the city of Caracas in ruins. Her second novel, El Tercer País (The Third Country: A Novel, scheduled for publication in English in 2024) has also been translated in over twenty countries, while her latest book has just been published, La isla del Doctor Schubert (Lumen, 2023).

Finding the Mother Tree: Uncovering the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Forest
Suzanne Simard
Finding the Mother Tree: Uncovering the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Forest
Penguin Random House, New York, 2021

Proposed by Sjón


El Tercer País
Karina Sainz Borgo
El Tercer País
Lumen, Barcelona, 2021

Proposed by Andrea Marcolongo


Manaschi
Hamid Ismaïlov
Manaschi
Translated from Uzbek by Donald Rayfield
Tilted Axis Press, Sheffield/London, 2021

Proposed by Kapka Kassabova


Finding the Mother Tree: Uncovering the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Forest
Suzanne Simard
Finding the Mother Tree: Uncovering the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Forest
Penguin Random House, New York, 2021

Proposed by Sjón


Due vite
Emanuele Trevi
Due vite
Neri Pozza, Milan, 2020

Proposed by Valérie Mréjen


El Tercer País
Karina Sainz Borgo
El Tercer País
Lumen, Barcelona, 2021

Proposed by Andrea Marcolongo


Manaschi
Hamid Ismaïlov
Manaschi
Translated from Uzbek by Donald Rayfield
Tilted Axis Press, Sheffield/London, 2021

Proposed by Kapka Kassabova


The Ascent
Stefan Hertmans
The Ascent
Translated from Dutch (Belgium) by David McKay
Harvill Secker, London, 2022

Proposed by Jonathan Coe


Trois femmes disparaissent
Hélène Frappat
Trois femmes disparaissent
Actes Sud, Arles, 2023

Proposed by Valérie Mréjen


Finding the Mother Tree: Uncovering the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Forest
Suzanne Simard
Finding the Mother Tree: Uncovering the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Forest
Penguin Random House, New York, 2021

Proposed by Sjón


Anéantir
Michel Houellebecq
Anéantir
Flammarion, Paris, 2022

Proposed by Gonçalo M. Tavares


Boulder
Eva Baltasar
Boulder
Translated from Catalan by Julia Sanches
And Other Stories, Sheffield, 2022

Proposed by Vera Michalski-Hoffmann


Bright Unbearable Reality
Anna Badkhen
Bright Unbearable Reality
New York Review Books, New York, 2022

Proposed by Kapka Kassabova


Due vite
Emanuele Trevi
Due vite
Neri Pozza, Milan, 2020

Proposed by Valérie Mréjen


El libro de todos los amores
Agustín Fernández Mallo
El libro de todos los amores
Seix Barral, Barcelona, 2022

Proposed by Gonçalo M. Tavares


El Tercer País
Karina Sainz Borgo
El Tercer País
Lumen, Barcelona, 2021

Proposed by Andrea Marcolongo


The Antarctica of Love
Sara Stridsberg
The Antarctica of Love
Translated from Swedish by Deborah Bragan-Turner
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2018

Proposed by Sjón


Havets kirkegård
Aslak Nore
Havets kirkegård
Aschehoug, Oslo, 2021

Proposed by Vera Michalski-Hoffmann


Manaschi
Hamid Ismaïlov
Manaschi
Translated from Uzbek by Donald Rayfield
Tilted Axis Press, Sheffield/London, 2021

Proposed by Kapka Kassabova


My Fourth Time, We Drowned: Seeking Refuge on the World’s Deadliest Migration Route
Sally Hayden
My Fourth Time, We Drowned: Seeking Refuge on the World’s Deadliest Migration Route
4th Estate, London, 2022

Proposed by Jonathan Coe


The Ascent
Stefan Hertmans
The Ascent
Translated from Dutch (Belgium) by David McKay
Harvill Secker, London, 2022

Proposed by Jonathan Coe


What Are You Going Through?
Sigrid Nunez
What Are You Going Through?
Riverhead Books, New York, 2020

Proposed by Andrea Marcolongo


Jury

Vera Michalski-Hoffmann, President of the jury

The publisher Vera Michalski-Hoffmann, born in 1954, who has always been committed to promoting literature and the written word, founded the publishing group Libella with Jan Michalski. Since 1987 numerous authors have been brought out in French, Polish and  English at various publishing houses, including Noir sur Blanc, Buchet-Chastel, Phébus, Wydawnictwo Literackie, and World Editions. In 2004 Vera Michalski created the Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature, whose mission is to foster literary creation and encourage the practice of reading through a range of initiatives and activities.

Jonathan Coe

The British novelist and biographer Jonathan Coe was born in 1961 in Birmingham (UK). He studied at the King Edward’s School and Trinity College, before going on to earn a PhD in English literature. He teaches at the University of Warwick. Coe made a name for himself internationally with his fourth novel, What a Carve Up!(Viking Press, 1994). The French translation, published the following year (Testament à l’anglaise, Gallimard, 1995), was awarded the Prix du Meilleur Livre étranger in 1996. His body of work has earned Coe a number of awards in his native Britain; published by Gallimard, his books have also garnered several prestigious prizes in France, including the 1998 Prix Médicis étranger for La maison du sommeil(The House of Sleep), and the 2019 European Book Prize for Le cœur de l’Angleterre (Middle England). In 2004 he became a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France.

Kapka Kassabova

Born in 1973 in Sofia, Bulgaria, Kapka Kassabova is the author of several collections of poetry, novels, and narrative nonfiction books in both Bulgarian and English. In 1992 her family emigrated to New Zealand, where she studied French, Russian and English literature and published her first texts. In 2005 she settled in Scotland. Her first two books to be brought out in French by Marchialy, Lisière (2020; originally published as Border in 2017) and L’écho du lac (2021; originally published as To the Lake in 2020), have won several awards, including Prix Nicolas Bouvier, special mention for the Prix du livre européen, and the Prix du Meilleur Livre étranger for nonfiction. Her work has been translated into some twenty languages. Her last book in English, Elixir: In the Valley at the End of Time has been brought out by Jonathan Cape/Graywolf in 2023.

Andrea Marcolongo

The Italian writer and journalist Andrea Marcolongo was born in 1987 in Crema, Italy. A scholar of ancient Greek with a degree in Classical Literature from the Università degli Studi in Milan, she has written several best-selling books, including La lingua geniale. 9 buone ragioni per amare il greco in 2016 (The Ingenious Language: Nine Epic Reasons to Love Greek, 2019); La misura eroica. Il mito degli argonauti e il coraggio che spinge gli uomini ad amare in 2018; Alla fonte delle parole. 99 etimologie che ci parlano di noi in 2019; and La Lezione di Enea in 2020 (Starting from Scratch: The Life-Changing Lessons of Aeneas, 2022). Her books have been translated in nearly thirty countries. She is also a member of the jury for the Prix du Grand Continent and is a regular contributor to Italian and foreign newspapers, including La Stampa and Le Figaro.

Valérie Mréjen

Born in 1969 in Paris, Valérie Mréjen is a French novelist, visual artist, and director of films and videos. A graduate of the École nationale supérieure d’arts of Cergy-Pontoise in 1994, she began by publishing artist’s books before entering the field of audiovisual production. She has made a number of short films and documentaries, including Pork and Milk (2004) and Valvert (2008), as well as the feature-length drama En ville (distributed internationally as Iris in Bloom) with Bertrand Schefer in 2011, which was shortlisted the same year for the Quinzaine des réalisateurs at Cannes. She published Mon grand-père (1999), L’agrume (2001), and Eau sauvage(2004) at Éditions Allia, and Forêt noire (2012), Troisième personne (2017) and La jeune artiste (2023) at Éditions P.O.L. Her artwork has been shown in France and abroad, notably at the Jeu de Paume, which devoted a solo show to her in 2008.

Gonçalo M. Tavares

Gonçalo M. Tavares was born in Luanda, Angola, in 1970. A prize-winning Portuguese writer and professor of epistemology at the University of Lisbon, he is seen today as one of the main literary voices in that language and has published in a variety of genres, from novels and poetry, to plays and essays. His works have been translated into over fifty languages and have won a number of national and international awards, including the José Saramago Prize for Jerusalem in 2005, and France’s prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger for Learning to Pray in the Age of Technology in 2010. In 2019 was published in English Reading Is Walking.

Sjón

Sjón (Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson) was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1962. He is a celebrated Icelandic novelist, poet, lyricist and screenwriter. His novels include The Blue Fox (2005 Nordic Council’s Literature Prize), From the Mouth of the Whale, The Whispering Muse, the trilogy CoDex 1962 and Red Milk (2019), and have been translated into thirty-five languages. His long-time collaboration with the singer Björk led to an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, “I’ve Seen It All” from Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark. The most recent film he co-wrote is Robert Eggers’ feature The Northman (2022), inspired by the Icelandic sagas. He is the president of the Icelandic PEN Center.

Rules

In accordance with article two of the statutes of the Jan Michalski Foundation for Literature and the Written Word (hereafter the Jan Michalski Foundation), the Foundation Board decided to create a literary prize called the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature (hereafter the Jan Michalski Prize).

The Jan Michalski Prize was officially established on 27 October 2009.

Article 1 — The Jan Michalski Prize

The Jan Michalski Prize will be awarded to a work of world literature in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, or illustrated books.

Article 1.1 — Criteria for awarding the Jan Michalski Prize

The Jan Michalski Prize is awarded to one book annually. The prize is not limited to any one language in particular.

Article 1.2 — Frequency of the prize

The Jan Michalski Prize is awarded once a year.

Article 1.3 — What winners of the Jan Michalski Prize receive

The winner of the prize receives CHF 50,000 (fifty thousand Swiss francs), a diploma, and a work of art especially selected for the Jan Michalski Prize.

Collective works are also eligible for consideration by the Prize Committee; if a book by several authors wins, the Jan Michalski Prize is awarded to all of them and the sum of CHF 50,000 is divided among the various winners.

Article 1.4 — When the prize is awarded

The Jan Michalski Prize is normally awarded each year in November during a ceremony in Montricher.

Article 2 — The Prize Committee

Article 2.1 — Committee members

The Jan Michalski Prize is awarded by the Jan Michalski Foundation for Literature and the Written Word. The prize winner is selected by an international committee of writers. One seat on the committee is reserved for an artist who has also shown a sincere interest in literature. Vera Michalski, who chairs the Foundation Board, is the lifetime Chairwoman of the Prize Committee.

Article 2.2 — Selection of the committee members

The Chairwoman of the Prize Committee appoints the other members of the committee. Membership on the committee is strictly honorary, that is, no payment attaches to the post. Members serve for three years. The Foundation Board, however, does reserve the right to reduce the term of individual committee members. At the end of the members’ term, the Foundation Board is free to either reappoint the same members or appoint new ones.

The Prize Committee is made up of well-known figures from a range of nationalities and cultural backgrounds who are at ease in two or more languages and widely recognized in any of the forms of literary and artistic expression.

Members sit on the Prize Committee in their own name and represent no interest group or commercial entity.

The Chairwoman of the Jan Michalski Foundation Board will write to each person appointed to the Prize Committee to confirm their appointment. Before serving, committee members will of course acquaint themselves with the present Rules.

Article 3 — Proposing candidates

Article 3.1 — Terms and conditions for participation

Only books published and printed by publishing houses are admissible. Manuscripts and self-published works are not accepted. Books must have been published within five years prior to attribution of the Jan Michalski Prize. Reeditions are not accepted unless the book in question has been significantly revised by the original author.

Members of the Prize Committee alone are authorized to propose books for consideration, with a maximum of two proposals per member.

Article 3.2 — Closing date

Submissions must be made by 1 March of each year. The shortlist of books competing for the Jan Michalski Prize is published on the foundation’s website.

Article 4 — Prize committee delibérations

The Members of the Prize Committee deliberate in complete freedom and independence, and, apart from the present rules, receive instructions from no one. Their deliberations are secret and the minutes of their meetings are not published.

Decisions are taken by simple majority but at least three-quarters of the committee members must participate in the vote for the deliberations to be valid.

The Prize Committee meets once initially to draw up a shortlist. At the end of that meeting, the committee decides on a limited number of books for final consideration. If need be, excerpts from proposed books are translated into a language that is accessible to all of the committee’s members.

The winner of the prize is announced during the committee’s concluding session. The committee’s decision is final and not subject to appeal.

Article 5 — Final provisions

Article 5.1 — Amendments to the rules

The rules can be revised at any time by the Foundation Board, except for the provision concerning the lifetime membership of the Chairwoman of the Prize Committee.

Article 5.2 — Announcing the prize winner

The results of the committee’s deliberations will be made public through the usual media. Only authors whose works have been shortlisted will be notified.