October 1, 2014
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan - ‘The Frogs Chorus’, a short story by Marina Babanskaya, has won The PEN /New Voices Award. The award, launched in 2013, promotes work by young and unpublished writers from countries in which PEN operates.
Novelist Andrei Kurkov, vice president of Ukrainian PEN, presented the prize of $1000USD to Babanskaya at the 80th PEN International Congress in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
‘She records and selects with her eyes and her ears in exactly the way that I feel is most important: and it is not just the smell of the sagebrush steppe, it is no less than the strong smell of history which walks these dusty expanses… Marina has found her own geography – striving with all her soul towards the south, which she writes about distinctly and skilfully. As Sappho said three thousand years ago, ‘Some say cavalry and others claim infantry or a fleet of long oars is the supreme sight on the black earth…’ The soul of this writer has its own direction: Zadoniye, the south…not in the vast and dimensionless way in which we look down from an aeroplane or at a map, but dealing with a piece of land of a precise size, with which the human heart can fall in love. I accept her invitation, and together with her I am ready to fall in love with Zadoniye…’ - Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Chair of Russian PEN’s New Voices jury 2014.
Babanskaya, born in 1986 in the Rostov region in southern Russia, holds a BA in Journalism from the Institute of Journalism and Creative Writing and a degree in Law. She is currently studying for an MA in Folklore and Mythology at the Russian State University for the Humanities and lives in Moscow. She was nominated by St Petersburg PEN Chapter.
The inaugural PEN International/New Voices Award was won last year by Masande Ntshanga from South Africa for his short story ‘Space’. Since winning the award, Ntshanga has received a publishing deal for his first book, which will be released by Random House Struik at the end of the year.
PEN would like to congratulate the other finalists, Kasim Bazil (Central Asian PEN) and Amalia Cernat (Romanian PEN), and thank the translators, the candidates who entered the competition and the PEN Centres who nominated them. You can read the shortlisted entries here.
We would also like to thank our judges, Xi Chuan, Kiran Desai, Alberto Manguel, Alexandre Postel and Kamila Shamsie, for all their hard work.