First year of Magnesia Litera awards

What you've just heard was the announcing of the book of the year award - the main category of the brand new "Magnesia Litera" Awards for best works of literature, presented for the first time on Saturday. Radio Prague's Pavla Horakova was a member of the jury and she joins me now in the studio.

I know that the Czech Republic has annual music awards, awards for best theatre artists, best athletes, best films etc. But until this year the country lacked an annual award for best literature.

"That's right. There were various partial prizes: for best literary translation, for best young author etc. This year a group of enthusiasts who thought Czech literature deserved a wider-ranging approach established a new award called 'Magnesia Litera' which has several categories."

We know you were on the committee - but who else was there?

"There was 25 members altogether. I was one of five people appointed by the Czech Translators' Guild which is an association of literary translators, then there were novelists and poets appointed by the Czech PEN Club and the Union of Czech Authors, there were booksellers, publishers and literary critics and also members of the Czech Academy of Sciences."

And what was the system of voting?

"There were 8 categories, one for best work of fiction, one for poetry, one for best translation, best non-fiction, best debut, important event in publishing and contribution to Czech literature - and of course a special category for the book of the year. There were three nominees in each category selected by the experts in that particular field in the jury - and then everybody chose for him or herself one of the books in the category. You can easily make out how many books everyone had to read before the vote."

So which book won the Book of the Year?

"It was the Czech edition of a book by a German author, Juergen Serke, called 'Boehmische Doerfer' or 'Bohemian villages' and it's about German or Jewish German-writing authors in Czechoslovakia before WW2. It also won the award for the most important event in publishing."

Who won the best work of fiction and best debut? Did you have any personal favourites?

"Both these prizes went to young authors; to Hana Andronikova for her debut novel 'Zvuk slunecnich hodin' or 'The Sound of the Sundial' and to Milos Urban for his novel 'Hastrman' or 'The Water Goblin'. And I think both have a good chance to make it on the international market. And your second question - they were my tips, so I'm happy."

With the first year a qualified success how do think the awards competition will develop next year?

"I can only hope the awards will attract more sponsors and there will be a financial reward for all the winners. Writers, translators or publishers don't have it easy and I think Czech literature deserves more support."