Awarding a prestigious literary prize has to be accompanied by scandal if it is to be a real event. It is a rule now confirmed by Ukrainian experience. Picture an awards ceremony, with almost one-third of the laureates not appearing onstage to receive their diplomas, even though invited to attend orally or in writing. Shocking, is it not?
Lobby communications in the course of the second all-Ukraine Book of the Year action pointed to bad publicity following the press conference when journalists were almost treated to, instead of champagne, something resembling water with shampoo. This time, at a rather cordial stand-up buffet after the prizes were handed out, another version was actively discussed. Many were said to have been scared away by the invitation specifying bow ties and evening or cocktail dresses. Indeed, a typical Ukrainian social gathering is kept in a more than modest style, as evidenced by the absence of any Mercedes parked by the entrance to Kyiv’s Lavra Gallery hosting the ceremony, unlike at previous such “actions of the year.” Still, among those that ventured to attend were gentlemen sporting fine sweaters and bandannas, and the ladies’ attire probably lacked only faded jeans. In other words, efforts were combined to create a festive atmosphere.
On the other hand, those attending Book of the Year 2000, organized by the rating study center, Elite Profi, and the editors of the newspaper, Knyzhnyk (Bookman) Review , were in for other, pleasant surprises. That evening, Mariyka Burmaka, a pop star, and Andriy Sereda, leader of the Who’s Headed Down rock group, made a perfect emcee duet, complimenting ironical sketches with good singing. The action’s patrons, the Foundation to Promote the Development of the Arts and Kyiv City Administration, placed the show on a larger scale than last year. Maybe this is a trifle, but everyone present was handed not a press release, as usual, but a special issue of Knyzhnyk Review and a copy of the book Ukrainian Bestseller. The latter, a hardcover boasting Lviv Kalvariya’s gorgeous design (the publishers won in almost every category where nominated), contained reviews on the year’s best literary works, a detailed list of the action’s experts, and book ratings in all nominations.
Apart from 15 laureates and the organizers’ three special prizes (the Grand Prix went to The Snow Queen , A-Ba-Ba-Ha-La-Ma-Ha Publishers), the magazines Suchasnist and Oligarch, Ukrainian Art Academy, Ukrainian Writers’ Union, and several publishing companies came with their own awards, which gave the event a new status. A new community is being formed before our very eyes, book journalism gradually becoming a full-fledged member, with just one problem, lack of legislative freedom, preventing an upsurge of Ukraine’s truly versatile book publishing. Marking the beginning of a new tradition now that this all-Ukraine action is becoming truly nationwide, truly unifying, showing that the Ukrainians must make a breakthrough into a new intellectual dimension. If this happens scandals will be just decorative frills against a noble background.