Sigrún Pálsdóttir Wins 2021 EU Prize for Literature

European Union Prize for Literature

Writer Sigrún Pálsdóttir was awarded the European Union Prize for Literature (EUPL) on November 9. The EUPL honours a single writer per participating country once every three years. Sigrún Pálsdóttir is the fourth Icelandic author to receive the prize.

Promoting the circulation of notable European books

The European Union Prize for Literature (EUPL) was established in 2009 and is an annual initiative to recognize the best emerging fiction writers in Europe. The EUPL also aims to “promote the circulation and translation of literature amongst European countries.”

For authors to be eligible for the prize, their country must participate in the Creative Europe Programme, which currently includes over 40 countries: the 28 EU member states, the three EEA countries (including Iceland), the candidate and potential candidate countries for accession to the EU, and the European Neighbourhood Policy countries.

The EUPL is organized into three-year cycles. Each year, national juries comprised of experts in literature, publishing, and bookselling are organized into a “rotating third of the participating countries.” After settling on a shortlist of two to five books from their nation’s most promising writers, each jury selects its national winner. As noted on the EUPL’s website: “all participating countries are thus represented across cycles of three years, with the prize awarding one winning book/author per country.”

The fourth Icelander to be honoured

The 2021 EUPL award ceremony was held on November 9 at the culture house Flagey in Brussels, Belgium. Thirteen authors from 13 different countries were recognized.

This year, the jury selected writer and historian Sigrún Pálsdóttir as its Icelandic winner (the award had previously been announced in May of this year). Sigrún was honoured for her 2019 novel Embroidery (also been translated as Runaround and the Nonsense Trip), which revolves around a 19th-century Icelandic woman named Sigurlína: “She disappears from Reykjavik, along with a historical relic from her father’s collection. Through a series of incredible events, the artefact is unveiled at The Metropolitan Museum of New York.”

As noted in the jury’s review, “Embroidery is the product of an author who has achieved mastery of both form and style … the narrative is concise and lean … and the novel is at once original and modern but at the same time incredibly accessible and fun.”

Sigrún Pálsdóttir is the fourth Icelandic writer to win the EUPL. Previous winners are Halldóra K. Thoroddsen, Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir, and Ófeigur Sigurðsson.

According to the EUPL’s website, each laureate of the EUPL receives 750,000 ISK (€5,000 / 5,700$) and their awarded book is given support for translation and promotion. “A EUPL anthology is also published every year, which features excerpts from all laureates’ awarded books both in the original language and in an English or French translation.”