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First Cankar Prize won by Sebastijan Pregelj

Vrhnika, 21 June - The Cankar Prize, a new literature award, was won by Sebastijan Pregelj for V Elvisovi Sobi (In Elvis's Room), a novel about a generation which was growing up while the former Yugoslavia was slowly disintegrating. He received the EUR 5,000 prize on Sunday in Vrhnika, the birthplace of author Ivan Cankar, after whom the award is named.

Writer Sebastijan Pregelj holding the novel In Elvis's Room, published by Goga, at the Slovenian Book Fair in 2019.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA
File photo

The novel is pervaded with the memory of recent historical changes, telling a coming-of-age story against the backdrop of a broader social context from the end of the 1970s until Slovenia's independence.

The jury, chaired by Ivan Verč, said it captures very well the feelings of the generation which witnessed the collapse of Yugoslavia, the war and transition in their childhood.

In his short acceptance speech, Pregelj, who was born in 1975, said "the novel tells a story about my generation, which was growing up with some watershed events".

He believes the time has come to look back and write those stories to tell them to new generations, to introduce them to the times "which were a bit more exciting".

The novel is also about people who found themselves on the wrong side through no fault of their own and about others who found themselves on the right side without any merit, the writer said.

The prize for the most original piece of literature from the previous year - either fiction, play, essay or poetry - was established last year by Slovenian PEN, the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU), the SAZU's Science and Research Centre, and the University of Ljubljana to honour Cankar (1876-1918) and encourage top-quality literature.

The award, for which the prize money was donated by the Vrhnika municipality, was given out at a ceremony in Vrhniški Laz, a piece of land that used to belong to Cankar's poor family.

Pregelj won it against another three shortlisted authors - Vinko Möderndorfer, who was in the running with his collection of essays Misanthrope at the Marketplace, Simona Semenič with her erotic play This Apple, Golden, and Brane Senegačnik with Conversations with Nobody, a collection of poems.

© STA, 2020