Schwentner, Book of the Year awards given out at Book Fair

Ljubljana – The 37th Slovenian Book Fair, held online over the past two weeks, formally closed on Saturday evening with an awards ceremony. Art editor Pavle Učakar received the Schwenter Award for his contribution to publishing and Erica Johnson Debeljak’s compelling book about widowhood received the Book of the Year Award.

Učakar, a painter who turned art editor at publisher Mladinska Knjiga, has received the award given out by the Chamber of Publishers and Booksellers for his contribution to the development of Slovenian publishing and bookselling during his almost 40-year career.

Johnson Debeljak meanwhile received the award for her partly fictionalised memoir about her husband Aleš Debeljak’s death in 2016 and her widowhood.

The book Devica, Kraljica, Vdova, Prasica (Virgo, Queen, Widow, Bitch) was selected by the fair’s visitors in an online vote among seven books shortlisted by a jury.

Johnson Debeljak had moved to Slovenia from the US to marry Debeljak, a well-known intellectual and poet, who died in a car accident.

The organisers said her book, which brings her personal story and a historical view on widowhood, is “powerful literature” which pushes boundaries and breaks taboos.

Miha Kovač, the head of the fair’s organising committee, presented some figures about the fair and a look towards a post-pandemic future as he hopes the fair returns to the in-person format next year, while keeping the advantages of online book advertising and holding some events online.

He said that “everything that has to do with publishers and their events has been very aggressively promoted on social media”.

“It’s hard to say now how successful we’ve been, but we’ll definitely reach around 130,000 visitors, while it was between 80,000 and 90,000 last year,” when the fair was held online for the firsr time due to the epidemic.

He said the corona period had proved to be good for Slovenian book production, with many quality books being published in 2020 and 2021 and sales also being upbeat, while sale figures were yet to come in.

More than 60 publishes have offered their book at lower prices and organised various events, including talks with authors, online since 22 November.