Future of state literary awards is in abeyance

Ever since it became known that the Culture Ministry was thinking of restructuring the state prizes for literature – which of them to retain and how often to award them – speculation has been rife. No award committee has yet been set up but rumor has it that Athens University Rector Giorgos Babiniotis was to become chair of the committee. Kathimerini spoke to Babiniotis on Tuesday evening and he confirmed that the ministry had made him an offer but that he had not yet replied. Asked if there was sufficient time to choose this year’s awards with due care, Babiniotis said: «There is a difficulty, but it depends on intensive work by the committee. It will be decided within the next few days.» Apparently the ministry is now inclined to award this year’s prizes, even at the last minute, and to discuss any changes later. Sources say the ministry is under pressure from the book world to make awards this year, which would benefit writers, promote publishers and boost sales. However, no matter how well-read the new prize jury members are, how can they possibly choose the most worthwhile books published in 2003 in the little remaining time? The ministry continues to telephone critics, academics, writers and others (by law, the prize jury must comprise three academics, three literary critics and three writers). It seems the ministry has decided not to entirely abolish the institution of the awards which, despite its imperfections, has lasted many years. There is insufficient time for the awards this year. The decisions will necessarily be hasty and will raise doubts. In 1993-1994, one set of awards was given for a two-year period, so there is a precedent. A committee can be established, but it should not rush to make the awards by December. No harm would be done if the awards were made next May, while an institution that has already come into question will be protected.

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