Mariusz Szczygieł has scooped the 3rd European Book Prize for prose. He was presented with the award in Brussels on December 9th for his collection of articles Gottland. The book explores Central Europe’s turbulent 20th century odyssey by spotlighting peculiar legacies in the former Czechoslovakia. Readers meet such evocative figures as sculptor Otokar Svec, who killed himself before finishing the world’s largest statue of Stalin, and Marta Kubišová, a singer banned by the communists and whose recordings were erased from radio archives. Besides many other intriguing characters, the author tracks down a surviving niece of Franz Kafka.
Szczygieł (b.1966) is a seasoned journalist who continues to work as a features editor for Gazeta Wyborcza. He took on controversial subjects from an early age. Whilst still a teenager, he published groundbreaking articles on Poland’s gay community, including reports on homosexual prostitution – subjects that were barely discussed in the communist era. Gottland was nominated for the European Book Prize by French critics. Besides French, the volume has already been translated into Czech and German, but as of yet English-speakers have been left in the lurch.