Estonian author Jaan Kaplinski awarded the European Literature Prize

The renowned Estonian author, Jaan Kaplinski, has been named the Laureate of the European Literature Prize (Prix Européen de Littérature).

The aim of the European Prize for Literature is to put the spotlight on the creativity and diverse wealth of Europe’s contemporary literature, to promote the circulation of literature within Europe and encourage greater interest in non-national literary works.

It is hoped that the prize will help the selected winners reach a wider, international audience, and touch readers beyond national and linguistic borders.

Jaan Kaplinski has published numerous collections of poems, prose and essays since 1965. His work has been translated into many languages, including French, Dutch, Japanese and Hebrew. Some of Kaplinski’s poems are originally written in English and Finnish.

In the last decade, he also started writing in Russian and his first original collection of poems written in Russian, “Белые бабочки ночи” (White Butterflies of Night), was published in 2014. The collection subsequently received a “Russian Award” in Moscow by the contest that celebrates the best works written in Russian by foreign authors.

In Estonia, Kaplinski is known for his independent mind, focus on global issues and support for left-wing thinking. His essays deal with environmental problems, philosophy of language, classical Chinese poems, philosophy, Buddhism and Estonian nationalism.

Kaplinski was also one of the authors and initiators of the “Letter of 40 intellectuals” – a letter signed by well-known Estonian intellectuals in 1980, protesting against the behaviour of the Soviet authorities in the then occupied Estonia. The protest letter was sent to the main newspapers of the time, but since the newspapers were controlled by the Communist authorities, it was never published and those who had signed it were repressed using administrative measures.

The European Literature Prize prize is financed by the Culture Programme of the European Union whose objective is to achieve three main goals: to promote cross-border mobility of those working in the cultural sector; to encourage the transnational circulation of cultural and artistic output; and to foster intercultural dialogue.

The prize competition is open to the 37 countries currently involved in the EU Culture Programme.


Cover: Jaan Kaplinski (photo by Raivo Tasso)

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