Andrey Kurkov Wins the Halldór Laxness International Literature Prize

Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov is the recipient of the 2022 Halldór Laxness International Literature Prize, RÚV reports. The prize, which includes a purse of €15,000 [ISK 2.1 million; $ 14,946] is awarded to internationally recognized authors who have contributed to “a renewal of the narrative tradition,” which were the grounds for Halldór Laxness receiving the Nobel Prize himself in 1955.

One of Ukraine’s best-known novelists and the president of PEN Ukraine, Kurkov will receive the award in person at the University of Iceland on September 7. The award will be presented by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, after which, the author will deliver a lecture in English. The award ceremony will be followed by a reading with other authors at Iðnó in the evening.

Kurkov is the author of 19 novels, including the wildly successful and satirical Death and the Penguin, which has been translated into more than 30 languages, and 2020’s Grey Bees, which is set in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine and details “his country’s past struggles with Russia.” This year, he’ll publish a book of his own personal diary entries, which he started writing on the eve of the Russian invasion.

He’s also written nine books for children, numerous documentary and TV scripts, and recorded an eight-part audio series for the BBC called “Letter from Ukraine,” detailing life in the country during the current war.

The Halldór Laxness International Literature Prize has been awarded since 2019. English novelist Ian McEwan was the first recipient, followed by Turkish novelist and activist Elif Shafak. Shafak was part of the selection committee for this year’s award, along with journalist Egill Helgason, of the books and literary criticism TV programme Kiljan, and director of the Reykjavík International Literature Festival Stella Soffía Jóhannesdóttir.

Ian McEwan Receives First-Ever Halldór Laxness International Literary Prize

British novelist Ian McEwan is the first-ever recipient of the Halldór Laxness International Literary Prize. The award was announced by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir at an international symposium on Halldór Laxness, which was held today.

The award, which is accompanied by a monetary prize of €15,000 [ISK 2,039,850; $16,704], is given to an international author whose work is renewing the art of storytelling. This motivation echoes the statement made by the Nobel Prize for Literature committee in 1955, the year that Halldór won the prize and thus became Iceland’s first—and still only—Nobel Prize winner. As the committee explained at the time, Halldór received the Nobel “for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland.”

Ian McEwan was not able to attend the presentation ceremony in person but will be making a visit to Iceland in September to receive it. A video message from the author was shown during the announcement ceremony in which he said that the award meant a great deal to him and that he was looking forward to “the city where the great Laxness was born and wrote.”

Ian was named recipient of the inaugural award by a committee including First Lady Eliza Reid, Icelandic author Einar Már Guðmundsson, and Stella Soffía Jóhannesdóttir, the director of the Reykjavík International Literature Festival, which is currently underway. In its justification for the award, the committee wrote that “It was not least the provocative subject matter [of his work], the seldom-discussed and sensitive themes, which made the author stand out. It has been said of Ian McEwan that he deals not merely with the headlines of the mind, but in equal measure the small print of the soul.”

“Ian McEwan’s work has met with consistent success,” continued the statement, “but he has also remained controversial, which should be regarded as a sign of enduring vitality. With this award, we acknowledge a spectacular career and an author with a pressing message.”

The award is presented in a collaboration among the Prime Minister’s office, the Ministry of Education, Promote Iceland, Gljúfrasteinn (the Halldór Laxness museum), Forlagið Publishing, and the Reykjavík International Literary Festival. Going forward, the award will always be presented during this festival, which takes place every two years.

Read the committee’s full statement on Ian McEwan’s work here.