Road to the EUPL Ceremony 2020

  • Jasmina Kanuric
  • 14 September, 2020

Before we had to move our EUPL ceremony online, two of our 2020 winning authors shared their expectations, thoughts, and ideas during the weeks leading up to the event in Brussels.


Follow Francis Kirps from Luxembourg and Petar Andonovski from North Macedonia on their road to the (now digital) ceremony!


14 September: Petar VI

This is my last diary entry. I got used to writing every other week and I already miss it. I was supposed to write this one a few days ago, but the past week has been a very important one for my career. Let me start from the beginning.

On Monday, September 7, I had a promotional event for my new novel 'A Summer Without You', the first Macedonian queer novel. The promotion was part of the Skopje Pride Weekend program.

On Tuesday, I left for Bulgaria. I left the country for the first time in six months. How nice it feels when you cross the border!

On Wednesday, I had a promotion in Sofia of my second novel 'The Body to Live in'.

On Thursday, I returned to Skopje and immediately went to the Book Fair where I was to meet my readers. That day I found out that I was proclaimed the Most Successful Macedonian Writer according to two fairs.

On Friday, I left for Tirana as part of the READING BALKANS Literary Residential Program. I have been in Tirana for three days now. Tirana is a magical city. Tirana is a city without a sea, but at any moment you have the feeling that it will appear anywhere. I'm sorry that I did not meet this city before, but maybe now I should take the time.

See you soon I hope!

26 August: Petar V

I am writing this diary from Struga. The Struga Poetry Evenings have already started. I will dedicate this diary to the festival.

The festival began in 1961 in Struga, in the then People's Republic of Macedonia, with Macedonian poets only, while in 1963 it expanded its list of participants with poets from all around the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.The Miladinov Brothers Award was established for the best poetry book published between two consecutive festivals. By 1966 the event turned into an international cultural festival. The Golden Wreath international award was established in the same year and its first recipient was Robert Rozhdestvensky. In 2003, in close cooperation with UNESCO, the Festival established another international award called The Bridges of Struga, for a best debut poetry book by a young author.

The festival has awarded some of the world's most eminent literary figures, including several Nobel Prize for Literature winners such as Joseph Brodsky, Eugenio Montale, Pablo Neruda and Seamus Heaney, the first African member of the French Academy Léopold Sédar Senghor who was also a President of Senegal, the official royal Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, W. H. Auden who is regarded by many as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century and many others.

A point of interest is that the festival has often awarded foreign poets who were considered dissidents in their countries, including for example the Russian exiled poet Joseph Brodsky, the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, the American beatnik Allen Ginsberg, the Soviet bard Bulat Okudzhava and many others.

21 August: Francis III

I spent some time away from home last week, in a manner of speaking. My parents and sister went for a short holiday to the Dutch coast, and I guarded their house while they were away. The house and the cat, that is. It is the place I grew up, in Walferdange, just 8 kilometers south of Lintgen where I live now. So my job last week was cat-sitting and scaring off potential burglars. I do not know if my sole presence really prevented criminal intruders from breaking into the house, luckily the case of emergency was not put to the test.

I won`t  leave Luxembourg until end of september, so this was my holidays kind of, not very glamorous I admit. The first two days, a crew of workingman was there, building a new fence, all I had to do was to open the garage for them in the morning, and close it again when they left. The cat behaved as if she was the owner of the estate and supervised them constantly. I` m afraid she doesn`t take me very seriously and sees herself as the property manager in charge of things when my family are away. To her I`m probably just some hired hand, there to provide the food.

Anyway, nothing bad happened, I was busy reading and writing a little (when I was not procratinating) and the cat whas busy doing what cats do (which is not much, from my human point of view).

Some good news from the book front, thanks to the exposure provided by EUPL, there are three transatlation projects of The Mutations confirmed: into Bulgarian (Colibri editions), North Macedonian (Treci Trg) and Serbian (Antholog). A few more requests from other countries have come in, including Albania, where the deal seems to be as good as done, but since it is not a 100% confirmed, I won`t put the name of the editor here.

More good news: My publisher wrote a few days ago from his holidays in Italy: My book is as good as sold out, the second edition will be in print come next week. Sales of my two other books have also increased, with new readers obviously having become aware of my existence.

Right now I`m busy writing a satirical piece for the Luxembourg City magazine „Ons Stad“ which is due to come out in November. I am little behind the deadline, (and my first draft of the article is twice as long as it was supposed to be), there`s still some work to be done, that`s why I must leave you for now and hope you enjoyed the cat content (and maybe even the literary news.)

12 August: Petar IV

I have been in my new apartment for two weeks now. I'm still getting used to life in it. And this is my first diary from there. I handed over the new novel to the publisher. And the final title is 'A Summer Without You'.

'A Summer Without You' is a novel about internal struggles, about alienation between partners, about perseverance in the search for truth. But also a novel about the family and the province. 'A Summer Without You' is a resistance aimed at the false morality and the lies that are served to us every day as truths.

By the end of August, the beginning of September should come out. I even arranged a promotion on September 7th. That period is also the Book Fair. Both the promotion and the fair will be under masks and outdoors. Christina Kramer, the translator of 'Fear of Barbarians' into English, completed the translation and handed it over to the editor.

September will be an interesting month. Many new beginnings. A new novel. Promotion. Fair. I will probably go to a residence in Albania as a replacement for Slovenia. And the most interesting at the end of the month ceremony in Brussels.

6 August: Francis II

Orange appears to be the colour of the day. As I write this, "alerte orange" has been proclaimed for the whole of Luxembourg, meaning that temperatures will rise to somewhere between 30 and 35 degrees today (6th of August). A normal day at the office for mediterranean countries, a life threatening situation for the residents of chilly little Luxembourg, or so it seems.

We are advised by our rulers to keep out of the sun and stay well hydrated, of course with water, tea or fruit juices, an not, NOT!, with sugary lemonades (which make the thirsty only thirstier, as the health prophets say). And no sports, much too dangerous. No problem there, I have the blinds down to keep the deadly heat out and won`t move from my couch until it is time for an evening pint. A glass of ice cold Coca Cola is waiting close by to hydrate me with a sugary spark and some black caffeine to fuel my brain, if needed. Fruit juices just don't do the same for me, I'm terribly sorry.

Maybe the colour of the alert also symbolizes which kind of juice the dehydrated citizens should drink: Yellow alert - lemon juice, orange alert - orange juice (obviously) and red alert - tomato juice?

Not only the weather, the whole country is orange, at least from a Belgian point of view: Our western neighbours have declared Luxembourg "zone orange". Which does not mean that they think we have all of a sudden become dutch. It`s more serious than that, it is a covid thing. Luxembourg is now officially a medium risk area. We are still allowed to travel to Belgium, but they'd rather we stayed at home for the time being, except when it is strictly necessary. That doesn't bother me too much for now, since I`ve no reason to go to Belgium. At least not until the end of September, when the EUPL-Ceremony will take place in Brussels. There, I think, the organizers count on our presence. But who can predict how the corona situation will have altered in two months' time? Let's just hope for the best, so that the ceremony can happen as planned, and stay positive (and well hydrated).

29 July: Petar III

In a few days it is August, and I still think it is March. Time seems to have stood in front of Covid 19. I am constantly waiting for summer to come, and it will end soon. I wanted this diary to be cheerful, positive, but it seems impossible in 2020. A week ago my samoyed, Chiara, who was part of my family for 12 years, died. Too many things happened in 2020 ...


I have a few more days to send mynew novel to the publisher. And now, after reading it for the last time, I think "Infidelity" is not the best title for it. I'm thinking of renaming it "Rain Cat", just like Ernest Hemingway's short story. My novel refers to this story in several ways. Or maybe I should rename it something like "A summer in which you are not there"? A week ago I was on a lake in Ohrid, and tomorrow I will go again.  Maybe that's where the title will come from. Ohrid is magical, ingenious ideas always come to me there.


I will be moving from Kumanovo to Skopje on August 4. I found an apartment in the perfect place, with a large yard with greenery, perfect for writing. The next diary will be written there. I hope it will be positive, unlike all my preivous entries so far.

24 July: Francis I

Dear Diary, dear everyone,


First things first, let`s talk about my haircut. I don`t look at all like the photograph above anymore as I haven`t cut my hair since the beginning of lockdown in March. Short hair feels better, maybe even looks better, but there`s something irrational that stops me from cutting it. Maybe it is some deepe-rooted superstition. Maybe I am afraid to accidentally cut off the lucky streak, that might be hidden somewhere in that greying tangle. Because a lucky streak I have indeed. Less than two weeks after winning the EUPL for Luxembourg, my book was also awarded the 'Prix Servais'. What better way to come out of confinement and back into real (if not yet normal) life. Because there was no real life for months, all book promotion events and public readings between March and June had been cancelled or postponed. Without that lucky pair of prizes, my book might be all but forgotten by now.


I also do a lot of creative writing classes and workshops, these had also been cancelled, except for one, which we continued per email. Simple as that, no zoom, no skype, no nothing, but written words. It was an experiment and it worked pretty well. Or, more specificially they worked well: the pupils, since they did it from home, without the asstance and guidance you can give them in a classroom. Just a little reminder that there is literary talent everywhere, even if most of those young authors seem to be reasonable enough not to envisage a carreer as professional writers, and head for a steady job instead.


And life goes on: On July 9th I had my first public reading, together with my friend and fellow author Anselm Neft from Hamburg, at the Abbaye de Neumünster down in Luxembourg City. It was open air reading with distancing, only 90 people allowed, at a location that normally holds over thousand. Still it was great fun to be back on stage. The same stage, by the way, where Kraftwerk played a year ago with little me in the attendance. And I`m quite proud of that, I hope that`s not sounding bigheaded.


I know that I look bigheaded right now, but that's just because of my hair.




15 July: Petar II

What a strange summer... A strange wind blows all morning. It's too quiet. I am still in Kumanovo. It seems like I won't be able to travel for long. There are elections in North Macedonia today. I don't know if I will go to vote.


It is a non-working day due to the elections. I was thinking today for the last time to read my new novel Infidelity before I sent the final version to the publisher. But this morning I realized that today I do not want to do that. I took Middlesex from Jeffrey Eugenides from the table. I started reading. After a few pages I stopped. I have no concentration at all. I keep thinking of something indefinite. I also feel a strange tiredness. Maybe I should go somewhere on vacation here in North Macedonia. Hikind in the mountains or to Ohrid to the lake...


This morning I received copies of my novel The Body One Must Live In in Bulgarian from Perseus Publishing House in Bulgaria. Next year, the same publisher should release Fear of barbarians, my EUPL winning novel. I thought that when I saw the package, I would be happy, but I didn't even open it.


I miss the old normal. The time when we traveled freely, when we looked at each other as people, not as carriers of the virus. This is even scarier than the time when Macedonians could not travel without a visa, and when the chances of winning the lottery were higher than getting an EU visa.


A strange wind, unusual for summer, blows all morning. These are strange times...

2 July: Petar I

This is my first Road to the Ceremony diary. I have never written a diary in my life, but I've always wanted to read other people's diaries. Like that of Marina Tsvetaeva, when one winter on the ship Athens - Heraklion I stayed in the buffet all night and until I finished reading her Diaries, I didn't even move. As I write this on the shelf in front of me, I look at Virginia Woolf's diary. It has not been read to me yet. It is waiting for its time.


The number of people infected with COVID-19 in North Macedonia is still high, with infections ranging between  100 and 200 a day. In the last four months, people have only seen the number of sick and dead. The world is more and more like a dystopian novel. As I write my first Road to the Ceremony entry, Macedonians still can't travel anywhere in Europe. On 6 July, I was scheduled to leave for Slovenia and take part in the Writing Residencies, where I planned to complete my new novel Infidelity. 


This year I will not even be able to go to Crete, where I have been spending the summer for the last 23 years. Sometimes I dream of the sea, and when I wake up in the dark, the city poem by Constantine Cavafy comes to me:


You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.


But not everything is so bad. One of the nicer things that happened to me during this period, besides receiving the EU Prize for Literature, is the opportunity of the award to have my novel Fear of Barbarians translated into other languages. These days I have received the cover for the English edition of the novel that is to be published by the publishing house Parthian books in the summer of 2021.


Until next time... when I hope to be able to cross the border and share my next Road to the Ceremony with you from Slovenia.

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