Dragan Velikić wins Vilenica Prize
The winner was first announced in the online edition of the Koper-based newspaper Primorske Novice, ahead of a news conference in Ljubljana on Wednesday.
Commenting on the news, Velikić told the paper that the Vilenica festival was very important to him. The first time he was invited to attend the festival was in 1989, when he published his debut novel Via Pula.
"At the time the prize went to Jan Skacel, and 30 years later it's me who is the laureate," he said, adding that he always had friends in Slovenia.
Born in Belgrade in 1953, Velikić has won all the major literary awards in Serbia as well as accolades abroad. His books have been translated into many languages and have won critical acclaim worldwide.
Living and working in Belgrade as a freelancer, he grew up in the Croatian town of Pula, then worked as a columnist and editor in Belgrade in the 1990s, before moving to live in exile in Budapest and Vienna. Between 2005 and 2009 he served as Serbia's ambassador to Austria.
In between Belgrade, Pula, Budapest, Vienna, Ljubljana, Trieste and Zagreb, Velikić's literature is concerned with the space and the social and personal circumstances that define him, Primorske Novice says.
In his novels he uses bitter humour to reflect on family crisis moments, expose inhumane ideological narrow-mindedness, individual experience, and the gap between the learning subject and the reality of the outside world, said Jutka Rudaš, a member of the Vilenica Prize judging panel.
His protagonists "live with their suitcases unpacked, with one foot always at the doorstep; continuously in search of a solid point that they could catch a breath at, possibly realise their mistakes, find themselves and, renewed, head into the right direction", Rudaš commented.
The Russian Window (Ruski Prozor, 2007), his most widely translated and acclaimed novel, "sweeps the reader off their feet with its refined virtuosity and linguistic perfection".
Rudaš said that all his novels offered an exceptional aesthetic experience to the reader: "They disclose spaces of everyday life, the complexity and simplicity of relationships."
The Vilenica festival will run between 10 and 15 September at eight locations in Slovenia and across the border, featuring 23 authors from 15 countries.
The main theme, Ego in the Story, will explore whether authors in Central Europe and worldwide reflect in their writing about the world in which people love their ego very much, the Vilenica judging panel director, Lidija Dimkovska, told reporters in Ljubljana.
The Slovenian author in focus will be Esad Babačić, whose poetry "has always been on the brink of social acceptability", as literary critic Igor Divjak has once said.
The Vilenica Anthology will feature a selection of Italian contemporary poetry, picked by Franco Buffoni and co-edited by Veronika Simoniti.