There are tons of literary awards out there, but last year I discovered one that caught my interest because of its international and journalistic focus. The Lettre Ulysses Award celebrates book-length reporting, and does not limit its scope to any single language or geographic area. The result is that a richly varied list of books is considered. Last year’s award went to Alexandra Fuller for her account of her travels with a white, African mercenary, Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier. This year’s longlist is out and once again it’s very eclectic:Die Hundeesser von Svinia (The Dog Eaters of Svinia) by Karl-Markus Gauss (Austria)The People on the Street by Linda Grant (Great Britain)Der Smaragdkonig. Victor Carranza und das grune Gold der Anden (The Emerald Czar: Victor Carranza and the Green Gold of the Andes) by Jeanette Erazo HeufelderThe Deurbanization of Lvov & A Week in Kishinev, part of a series of texts on the decline of post-Soviet cities by Igor Klekh (Russia)Pais de plomo. Cronicas de guerra (Country of Bullets. War Diaries) by Juanita Leon (Colombia)The Story of “Freezing Point” by Li Datong (China)Operacao Araguaia: os arquivos secretos da Guerrilha (Operation Araguaia: The Secret Archives of a Guerrilla War) by Tais Morais & Eumano Silva (Brazil)Voyage aux pays du coton. Petit precis de mondialisation (Journey to the Lands of Cotton: A Brief Manual of Globalisation) by Erik Orsenna (France)The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq by George Packer (USA)Beirut shi mahal: an Egyptian in Lebanon by Youssef Rakha (Egypt)Chasing the Monk’s Shadow: A Journey in the Footsteps of Xuanzang by Mishi Saran (India)An Iraqi in Paris by Samuel Shimon (Iraq)Biz Burada Devrim Yapiyoruz Sinyorita (We are Making a Revolution Here, Signorita) by Ece Temelkuran (Turkey)Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy by Manjushree Thapa (Nepal)Faith at War: A Journey on the Frontlines of Islam, from Baghdad to Timbuktu by Yaroslav Trofimov (Ukraine)The Long MarchGenius loci by Peter Vail (Russia)Cosecha de mujeres: Safari en el desierto mexicano (Harvest of Woman. Safari in the Mexican Desert) by Diana Washington Valdez (Mexico/USA)’What Kind of God’: A Survey of the Current Safety of China’s Food by Zhou Qing (China)
The winners of the Lettre Ulysses Award – a prize for book-length reportage that I discussed a few weeks ago – have been announced. Alexandra Fuller’s account of her travels with a white, African mercenary, Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier took the 50,000 Euro first prize while A Season in Mecca: Narrative of a Pilgrimage by Moroccan Abdellah Hammoudi and Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq by Riverbend won the 30,000 Euro second prize and 20,000 Euro third prize, respectively.
There are plenty of awards for fiction and quite a few for different types of non-fiction, but, according to the people behind the Lettre Ulysses Award, “no world prize for reportage literature existed before 2003.” That’s when a couple of German foundations got together “to provide symbolic, moral and financial support for reporters whose courage, curiosity, and integrity drives them to create in-depth, well-researched texts, bringing unknown, forgotten, and hidden realities to light. The prize is also intended to publicly honor and highlight the extraordinary achievements of literary reportage.” Each year they award a first, second and third prize worth 50,000, 30,000 and 20,000 Euros, respectively. One of the most interesting aspects of this award is its international reach. In the award’s first two years, a Somali, a Russian, two Chinese and two Americans have been prizewinners. Indeed this international bent is a part of the award’s mission: “By facilitating the translation and publication of texts from often inaccessible places or languages, this project aims to focus attention on diverse topics and issues.”This year’s award will be announced on October 15th, and the Shortlist looks very interesting:Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq by Riverbend (Iraq)Von den Kriegen: Briefe an Freunde (Of the wars: Letters to friends) by Carolin Emcke (Germany)Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier by Alexandra Fuller (Zimbabwe)A Season in Mecca: Narrative of a Pilgrimage by Abdellah Hammoudi (Morocco)The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime by William Langewiesche (USA) (my review)Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta (India)Muerte en el Pentagonito: Los cementerios secretos del Ejarcito Peruano (Death in the Pentagonito: The Secret Cemeteries of the Peruvian Army) by Ricardo Uceda (Peru)