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Contest attracts young essayists from 90 nations

Young people born since 1990 have been invited by the Bergen International Literary Festival (LitFestBergen) to an essay contest on the theme of “My generation”. By the 1 October deadline, 550 entries had been received from 90 countries.

Festival manager Teresa Grøtan is overwhelmed by the number of contributions and their geographic spread. “It shows that we hit a thematic nerve and that current world conditions trigger young adults to write,” she says, and is keen to read the essays.

When announcing the competition, LitFestBergen said it was looking for texts written by under-30s from their own standpoint. What characterises your generation, they were asked. What encourages you, what enrages you?

Birthe Kåfjord Lange, chair of LitFestBergen, is also very enthusiastic over the scope of the material and sees the possibilities it presents. “This is a gift to researchers and to the history books about our time,” she affirms.Observing that the entries provide a binocular view into 90 different countries, she believes that getting access to them as the basis for writing a book about parallel lives on every continent must be an author’s dream. “Through these essays, we have an amazing opportunity to gain an insight into what it’s like to be young today as seen through 550 pairs of eyes.”

The entries will be judged by an international jury. Its Norwegian member, author and critic Sandra Lillebø, finds it gratifying and very impressive that such a large number of contributions have been received from so many countries. “I hope the fact that almost half the world’s countries are represented means we’ll see a big variety of interpretations of the invitation text, of the subjects which preoccupy the young writers, and of the types of literature they have drawn their inspiration from,” she says.

In her view, the jury faces a big and difficult job – but a no less exciting one. She points out that quality is naturally a difficult value to assess.“With jurors whose horizons differ, who are themselves writers in various genres, I believe we’ll have many interesting discussions before we hopefully reach agreement on the very best,” Lillebø says. She adds that, with such a number of entries, many are likely to be good enough for inclusion among the top four, and literary distinctiveness and richness of ideas may be crucial in determining who makes the grade.

The winner and three others will be announced at an event during LitFestBergen 2021, which runs from 10-14 February. While the top prize is EUR 2 500, the runners-up will get EUR 500 each. Their entries will also be printed and published.

The jurors are:

  • Alisa Ganieva (Russia), author and critic
  • Leila Guerriero (Argentina), author and journalist
  • Sandra Lillebø (Norway), author and critic
  • Daniel Medin (USA/France), editor and associate professor at the American University of Paris
  • Jonny Steinberg (South Africa/UK), author and professor at the University of Oxford
  • Ece Temelkuran (Turkey), author and newspaper commentator


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