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«I feel somewhat sorry for worming my way into the company of youth. We must elevate our young writers. It is they who need attention, space and prospects. Having neither ambition nor leadership, I am devoted only to the blank sheet of paper. I can do nothing else, nor do I want to. I live only by my writing».

So said Belarusian writer Viktar Kazko, born in 1940, upon being named this year’s winner of the fourth annual Jerzy Giedroyc prize in literature at an award ceremony in Minsk’s Renaissance hotel on June 1. Kazko received the honor for his collection of novellas Time to Gather the Bones published in Minsk last year. The five other shortlisted authors in competition for the prestigious award were considerably younger than the winner.

«Time to gather the bones» by Viktar Kazko, book cover.
«Time to gather the bones» by Viktar Kazko, book cover.

The Jerzy Giedroyc prize, established in 2011, is a joint project of Poland’s embassy in Belarus, Minsk’s Polish Institute, the Belarusian PEN Center, and the Belarusian Union of Writers. The award bears the name of Minsk-born Polish intellectual and political activist Jerzy Giedroyc (1906-2000). A renowned émigré writer and publisher during the Communist era, Giedroyc was a staunch supporter of the idea of Belarusian statehood, and an advocate of friendly relations between Poles and their eastern neighbors in Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine.

The prize sum of 10 000 euros is each year bestowed upon the winning author of a book of prose published in Belarusian in the preceding year. Second and third runners up this year received subsidized stays at writing retreats in Sweden and Latvia, respectively.

Previous recipients of the Jerzy Giedroyc prize were Paval Kasciukevich (2012), Uladzimir Niaklajeu (2013) and Ihar Babkou (2014).