This past weekend, the award ceremony of the Fintro Literatuurprijs took place. Read this post if you want to know more about the book award. Two months ago, the shortlist was announced (read about it here) and the members of the Readers’ Jury were asked to read all five of them, discuss the stories and choose their favourite.
I invited a close friend and voracious reader along and we had fun on the red carpet (photo on the left). Along with the other 99 members of the Readers’ Jury, their guests, a number of professionals and VIPs from the book and publisher’s world, we were invited to the beautiful NT Gent. The decorations were to die for, just look at those beautiful chocolate book covers (photo on the right) by chocolatier Marc Vandenbussche.
The night started off with Kathleen Cools, Adil El Arbi and some chitchat. Then they invited the 5 nominated authors on the stage and talked to them about their writing, their books, and their life as an author.
“Books are very patient.” – Connie Palmen
Stephan Enter, P.F. Thomése, Inge Schilperoord, Connie Palmen, and Hagar Peeters shared their passion for books and writing with the room and viewers at home (the entire evening was broadcasted live on TV).
And then it was time for the prizes to be awarded. So the Fintro Literatuurprijs exists of two prizes:
- Every member of the Readers’ Jury gets to vote on their favourite book and their second favourite one. The book with the most votes is honoured with the Readers’ Jury Award.
- There is also a Professional Jury made up of a number of publisher’s and others working in the book industry. They vote on their favourite book, which then wins the big €25,000 prize: the Fintro Literatuurprijs.
“The borders between fiction and reality have faded. That is what I look for in my books.” – Connie Palmen
And the winner is… De onderwaterzwemmer (The underwaterswimmer) by P.F. Thomése. It was chosen by the Readers’ Jury for the Readers’ Jury Prize, a real fan favourite. It was my second choice.
I purposefully didn’t post my reviews of these books yet, I want to give readers the time discover the books for themselves. Here’s a little teaser for the book, though:
During the nightly crossing into liberated territory, in the last year of the war, the fourteen year old Tin van Heel loses his father. One night, one day and one evening, the boy keeps guard, staring, searching, but his father doesn’t resurface. When, thirty years later, during an African trip with his wife, tragedy threatens again, he feels the time has come to set things straight. De onderwaterzwemmer is a thrilling and poignant novel about the irreversibility of loss and the guilt about it. And about salvation, which comes when you least expect it – but has always swum along with you under water.
The big Fintro Literatuurprijs, worth € 25,000, went to the book that I voted for: Malva by Hagar Peeters. Again, no review just yet, but here is a little teaser to whet your appetite:
Malva is the daughter of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The girl was born with water on the brain and was quickly cast out by her father. She lived with a foster family in the Netherlands and died at eight years old during the Second World War. After Malva’s death, Hagar Peeters lets her pick up the pen her father dropped at his passing. She gives her a voice, and a fascinating afterlife where she meets soul mates with whom she wisely and with humour comments on life on earth. Together with them, Malva tries to find an answer to the question of how it is possible that Neruda, the flawless hero that stood up for the forgotten and the downtrodden, could deny the existence of his own daughter. She asked Hagar Peeters, whose own father was in Chili as a journalist at the time of Neruda’s passing, to be her ghostwriter.
After the awards had been handed out, the night was mostly over. But not before Adil El Arbi, chairman of the Readers’ Jury, movie producer and screenwriter, entertained the room with a bit of rap, accompanied by the band that had been taking care of the musical interludes all evening. If that’s something you can’t wait to see, here’s the exclusive footage:
It was quite the night. I had a lot of fun, and I think Malva really deserved to win. I also felt pretty cool that I agreed with the professional readers jury about which book was best. I loved reading all books and over the next few months, I will be releasing my reviews of them. Spoiler alert: Malva will be the first one.