Culture ministry unveils new literary competition following 2021 Litera Prize cancellation

  • From left: Ketevan Dumbadze, Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Cultur and author of the initiative for the prize, and Thea Tsulukiani, Minister of Culture, Sport and Youth, revealed the new contest on Monday. Photo via Ministry of Culture, Sport and Youth of Georgia., 22 Nov 2021 - 18:46, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Ministry of Culture, Sport and Youth of Georgia has unveiled a fresh literary competition for authors and publishers, a launch that follows the cancellation of the 2021 edition of the long-standing Litera Prize following a controversy between its participants and the ministry.

On Monday, minister Thea Tsulukiani announced the start of Best of the Year, a contest that will hand out prizes to the best and brightest novels, poetry collections, prose collections and plays annually, in a format similar to previously existing competitions. The new literary occasion is set to host its first awards ceremony on December 27.

Tsulukiani said the contest - launched based on an initiative by Ketevan Dumbadze, Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Culture - would aim to support development of the literary sector, "encourage creative work" and identify emerging talents.

The announcement follows the suspension of Litera Prize - one of two major literary awards held annually in Georgia - earlier this year by organisers at Writers' House of Georgia venue, following a protest by nominees and juries of this year's edition against an appointment of a jury member by the culture ministry.

In comments about the protest and the subsequent cancellation of the competition, Writers' House of Georgia said "[t]he public has viewed the ministry's decision as interference in creative activity".

PEN Georgia, a collective bringing together over 70 Georgian writers, later said the move had been seen by the longlisted authors as having the outlines of the USSR-era "appointments of representatives of Soviet state [authority] to contest juries, mandated to reject submissions incompatible with party ethos".

Last month, the collective launched a crowdfunding drive in a bid to host an alternative literary award, with the intended event aiming to replicate the format of the cancelled prize.

The ministry's newly announced contest will be hosted by the culture body itself, with a commission appointed by a ministerial decree selecting winners before presenting their selection for approval by the minister.