The Slovenia Times

Vilenica Prize goes to Otto Tolnai

A poster for the international literary festival Vilenica. Photo: Ksenija Brišar/STA

The 2023 Vilenica Prize for Central European literature will go to Otto Tolnai, a Hungarian author from the Serbian province of Vojvodina. He will accept the award at the Vilenica international literary festival in September.

A poet, writer, playwright, essayist and translator, Tolnai is considered one of the most important contemporary Hungarian authors.

A member of the Hungarian ethnic minority in Vojvodina, he studied Hungarian language and literature and philosophy in Novi Sad and Zagreb in the former Yugoslavia.

He has published more than 35 books, which have been translated into several languages and won him a number of awards, including the Kossuth Prize, Hungary's top state award in culture.

His first poetry collection Homoru Versek (Hollow Verse) came out in 1963. Poetry International writes that many of his poems are about writing poems. "He is a master of striking images, the more impressive because he evokes them with simple language and a sparing use of poetic devices."

The winner was declared in Ljubljana on 7 June where Tonai's literature was described as being imbued "with an openness, the sovereign freedom of moving between countries, landscapes, cultures and traditions".

Tolnai's poetics is rooted in the Hungarian cultural tradition but has been strongly influenced by modern Yugoslav literary trends, which makes it cross-cultural in nature.

This historical and multi-cultural basis underlying his literature takes the reader by surprise through its wild complexity, the jury said.

His literature is characterised by a heterogeneous, polyphonic interweaving of voices, everyday conversations and dialogues, experimentation with narrative techniques and self-reflection.

The 38th Vilenica Festival will run between 4 and 9 September in Ljubljana and the western Kras region with the theme The Diverse Face of Europe. Fourteen authors from 12 countries are expected to take part.

Tolnai will receive the €10,000 Vilenica Prize at the conclusion of the festival, at a ceremony in the karst cave after which the festival and the award are named.

Previous laureates include Milan Kundera, Peter Handke, Olga Tokarczuk, Ilma Rakusa, Austrian writer Josef Winkler, and Latvian poet Amanda Aizpuriete.

The festival is organised by the Slovenian Writers' Association.


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