The European Book Prize honored Greek author Christos Chomenidis for his autobiographical work “Niki” on Monday.
Chomenidis’ novel, which tells the story of the Occupation in Greece during WWII and the Greek Civil War, was also commended by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The Greek premier sent congratulations to the author on Monday, saying “As Prime Minister, as a loyal reader and as a good friend with whom we often share thoughts and concerns. I hope to meet him on his way to other distinctions. His imagination is sharp with reality, keeping his pen just as bold. And to remain a dynamic writer and, at the same time, a living observer of life and an active citizen of our homeland.”
The European Book Prize, known by its French name as “Le Prix du Livre Européen,” is a European Union literary award established in 2007. It is awarded by the association Esprit de Europe in Paris. The award promotes European values and contributes to European citizens’ better understanding of the EU as a cultural entity.
Eligible books must have been published in one of the 27 EU member states, in the original language or a translation. Works are submitted in one of two categories: essays and novels or narratives. Submissions are then sent to a sponsorship committee which narrows the list down to less than 10, which are submitted to a new committee of judges, composed of journalists and authors. The prize has a cash value of 10,000 euros to each winner.
Culture and Sports Minister Lina Mendoni also congratulated Chomenidis on his award in a post on social media, saying that Chomenidis’ work “honors Greek letters, honors Greece.”
Chomenidis “Niki” Published in 2014
Chomenidis’ “Niki” was first published in Greek in 2014. It has not been translated into other languages. Chomenidis is the first Greek author to have been awarded the European Book Prize. A total of 14 nations have been honored since the inception of the award, with France and the UK receiving the prize four times each.
The 55-year old author offers the reader of “Niki” the history of Greece through the lens of his own family’s history. Chomenidis is the grandson of a very real character in Greek history, Vassilis Nefeloudis, who was associated with the ideological father of the Greek left, Nikos Zachariadis. So close was his association that he took the reins of the party while Zachariadis was imprisoned. To protect his family from the persecutions of his ideological commitments, his infant daughter, at just two months old, was exiled to an island in the Cyclades.
“Niki,” the name of both Chomenidis’ mother and his own young daughter, shares the family’s story of Nefeloudis election as an MP for the Greek Communist Party, known in Greece as the KKE, at the age of just 26. Through Niki, Nefoulidis’ tale is told, including the persecutions, the imprisonments and ideological battles with Zachariadis.
Chomenidis wrote the book mainly on the basis of fictional elements that refer directly to both external and internal, emotional conflicts. Niki is not only the daughter of the ideological fighter of the Left, but also a young woman who will fall madly in love, giving her already divided family a reason to clash.
Author says award is “Victory for Greece”
Chomenidis took to Instagram to comment on the literary award. “Awarding the European Novel Prize to ‘Niki’ is a Victory for Greece. Through art, our homeland can be re-introduced to the world. At the time of this great justification and joy, I think of my mother and father, who were the first inspiration for ‘Niki.’
“I think of the teachers who inspired me. I think of the readers who have supported me for almost thirty years now. I thank my publisher Anna Pataki, who inspires me with brotherly love. I embrace those closest to me. I send a big kiss to my daughter’s peers.”
Chomenidis has written more than ten novels about Greece, most recently “Jimmy From Kypseli,” the story is the tale of a modern Athenian man who feels redundant in a technological society. His books are available through Patakis Publishing. Chomenidis also writes for online Greek news outlets.