1 August 2011 Szczygieł and Stasiuk nominated for Nike Award

Mariusz Szczygieł for Zrób sobie raj (Make Your Own Paradise) and Andrzej Stasiuk for Dziennik pisany później (A Journal Written Later) have been nominated for the most prestigious literary award in Poland – the Nike. 20 books are competing for the prize and will be evaluated by a jury headed by Professor Grażyna Borkowska. The list of seven finalists will be announced in September and the laureate and winner of a statuette created by Gustaw Zemła and a cheque for PLN 100 000 – will be announced, as is traditional, on the first Sunday in October.

Zrób sobie raj by Mariusz Szczygieł is a continuation of Gottland. It talks about modern times, although many symbols, such as the Lucerna Palace built by the father of Vaclav Havel reappear and fuse everything into one unending talk on the Czech Republic, or rather a free mental stroll through streets and ages. Talking about still-living artists, whom Mariusz Szczygieł visits as a reporter and interviewer, he takes into consideration the broader picture, not only historical, but also more personal, and such selection is proof of his journalistic shrewdness.

During the inauguration of last year’s edition of the Conrad Festival, we could listen to excerpts from Dziennik pisany później, read by Andrzej Stasiuk himself. “Travelling through Banja Luka, I thought about her. Among the ruins, graves and minefields. I thought about how she lies prostrate between the East and the West, idle and sleepy. Among the immortal birches. On the sand. Picking her nose, rolling balls and dreaming of her own fate. Of her future marriage and past rapes, or of taking the veil. This is what I think about in Banja Luka, as the rain falls and I am looking for the route to Croatia, or Hungary, because I am going back already. I think about her in Jajco and in Travnik. How she sometimes rolls onto her side among the centenarian birches, among the everlasting sands, props her head up on her hand and gazes at the horizon, where the temptations of big cities rise into the air, diamond skyscrapers, banners with intricate emblems of multinationals, where the luciferian light is mirrored in the clouds, forming foreign slogans praising the forthcoming liberation, which, like a ruthless wave, will swamp the old and salvage the new. This is what I love her for. For the staring. For lying on her side. And I promise myself that as soon as I get back from the hapless Balkans, I will describe her. Kilometre after kilometre, hectare after hectare, town after town, listing all the names like spells, prayers, litanies, ark of the covenant, house of gold, tower of ivory somewhere near Malkinia, somewhere near Bełżec.”

The Nike will be awarded for the fifteenth time this year. Former laureates include: Wiesław Myśliwski (twice), Czesław Miłosz, Stanisław Barańczak, Tadeusz Różewicz, Jerzy Pilch, Joanna Olczak-Roniker, Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz, Wojciech Kuczok, Andrzej Stasiuk, Dorota Masłowska, Olga Tokarczuk, Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki and Tadeusz Słobodzianek. The prize is funded by the Gazeta Wyborcza daily and the Agora Foundation.

It is worth remembering that Andrzej Stasiuk is a regular guest of the Conrad Festival, and that Mariusz Szczygieł participated in its first edition.