It used to be one of the last events of the year, but the 2004 state literature awards were presented on Tuesday evening at the Athens Byzantine Museum. Among those present, who were treated to a concert by the Plucked String Ensemble, was Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who also holds the Culture Ministry portfolio. «A glance at the books that have received prizes in the 49 years since the awards were established gives a clear picture of Greece since the Second World War, a time of conflicts and breaks with the past that led the country into the European Union and prosperity,» said Karamanlis. «The cycle of history of the second half of the 20th century is irrevocably over. Now [the country has] a different voice; one that unites Greeks rather than divides them. The government wants to support every worthy effort without standing guard. It wants to support culture as a global ambassador, as something that affects us all,» he added. This year’s prize-winners, already well known to the public, are Costas Stergiopoulos for his body of work; Vassilis Alexakis for his novel «Foreign Words» (Exandas); Antonis Fostieris for his collection of poetry «Precious Lethe» (Kastaniotis); Achilleas Kyriakidis for his short stories titled «Artificial Respiration» (Polis); the literature critic Alexis Ziras for his essay «A Greek Abroad» (Gavriilidis); and Tasoula Verveniotis for «Double Book» (Bibliorama). Awards Committee President Giorgos Babiniotis drew attention to the important literature now being produced in Greece, and referred to the debate regarding possible changes to the institution of state literature prizes. One of these, perhaps, could be more transparency and letting the committee members know earlier about new books in each category the previous year.