Each year, since its inception in 1996, the Prize has awarded £10,000 to the best book in English on a subject relating to or inspired by Greece.
For the 2016 London Hellenic Prize, we received 97 eligible submissions from 34 publishers and authors dotted across the globe.
All submitted books were read over the course of several months by the six-strong Adjudicating Committee chaired by Dr Jennifer Wallace (Peterhouse, Cambridge) assisted by two additional readers.
Many books stood out, specifically:
- Ivan Drpic, Epigram, Art, and Devotion in Later Byzantium (Cambridge University Press)
- Esther Eidinow, Envy, Poison, and Death: Women on Trial in Classical Athens (Oxford University Press)
- Barbara Graziosi, Homer (Oxford University Press)
- George Manginis, Mount Sinai: A History of Travellers and Pilgrims (Haus Publishing)
- Christian Marek, with Peter Frei; Steven Rendall (trans.), In the Land of a Thousand Gods: A History of Asia Minor in the Ancient World (Princeton University Press)
- Nick Papandreou, The Magical Path to the Acropolis (Melissa Publishing House)
- Matthew Wright, The Lost Plays of Greek Tragedy. Vol. 1: Neglected Authors (Bloomsbury Academic)
- Marinos Yeroulanos (ed.), A Dictionary of Classical Greek Quotations (I. B. Tauris)
The Adjudicating Committee settled on a Short List of five books to debate at their final meeting on 18 June. These comprised:
- Paul Cartledge, Democracy: A Life (Oxford University Press)
where eminent historian Paul Cartledge traces the origins of democracy as a political idea from its beginnings in fifth-century Athens right up to more recent developments in the English civil war period, in the French revolution and in the thinking of America’s founding fathers. Admirably wide-ranging, and sound in its judgements, this is a timely book on an important subject for our age.
- Peter McDonald, The Homeric Hymns (Fyfield Books)
Containing poems which have been wrongfully neglected, overshadowed by the Homeric epics. Peter McDonald, poet and literary critic, rectifies this with a metrically experimental, poetically skilful collection which steers a careful balance between traditional and the contemporary vernacular. In the footsteps of such illustrious classical translators as Chapman, Shelley and Heaney, McDonald gives us lyrical versions which stand as poems in their own right as much as literal translations.
- Thanassis Valtinos, trans. Jane Assimakopoulos, Orthokostá (Yale University Press)
is a turbulent, traumatic novel narrated through eye-witness testimonies of the brutal civil war in the Peloponnese in the 1940s. Valtinos’s groundbreaking and provocative novel was published in Greek to a storm of controversy in 1994. This new translation, published by Yale University Press, makes the novel available to non-Greek readers for the first time. In Orthokosta’s fearless confrontation with the violence and confusion of civil war, we are presented with a book which speaks not only to Greece’s dark past after WWII but to the horrors of internal civil conflict around the world today.
- Tim Whitmarsh, Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World (Faber & Faber)
is a lively, highly accessible and well written account of religious scepticism and forms of belief and unbelief in the ancient world. Whitmarsh’s book is an excellent introduction to ancient Greek culture, as well as to the more specific topic of the attitudes to the gods and to atheism.
- Karen Van Dyck (ed.), Austerity Measures: The New Greek Poetry (Penguin)
which was chosen as the winner of the 2016 Prize.
Our winning book is a beautifully and thoughtfully produced anthology of contemporary Greek poetry, printed with both the Greek and English versions on adjacent pages. This is a revelatory volume: refreshing, young, relevant, political, lyrical, comic. It speaks both to the Greek crisis and also to life beyond the crisis. As Karen Van Dyck, the editor, says in her introduction to the volume, “When there is less to go around, people fight, grab, get tough… But poetry, though, is one thing there is more of. Much more”. Van Dyck meticulously researched and collected poems not only from mainstream publishers in Athens and Thessaloniki but also from marginal literary journals, blogs, underground performance and graffiti poetry, from Greek expats abroad and from non-Greek immigrants or refugees in Greece. The result is an excitingly diverse, vibrant and grittily optimistic collection which shows the dynamism of Greece both despite and because of the crisis.
The award ceremony will be held in the autumn.