Bulgarian-German author Ilija Trojanow to receive Heinrich Böll Prize

Written by on November 22, 2017 in People - Comments Off on Bulgarian-German author Ilija Trojanow to receive Heinrich Böll Prize

Ilija Trojanow will receive one of the most prestigious German literary prizes on Friday. That is when the Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, will hand over the Heinrich Böll Prize to the author. The award includes prize money in the amount of 30,000 Euro.

The jury, which included Mayor Reker, said that hardly any other author implemented the political dedication of the late Heinrich Böll as persistently and ambitiously as Ilija Trojanow. Just like Böll in Nazi Germany, Trojanow had gained painful experience with totalitarianism.

Not only had Tojanow distinguished himself as an uncompromising critic of the surveillance state, the jury stated when it picked the author in May, but also as a helper for fellow authors who were persecuted, as well as those in exile.

Ilija Trojanow was born in Sofia, the capital of what was communist Bulgaria, in 1965. In 1971, he and his family fled to Germany, via Yugoslavia and Italy. In Germany, they were granted policial asylum. In 1972, the family moved to Kenia, where Ilija attended primary school. Later, during a second stay in Kenia, he graduated from high school.

In Munich, he studied law and ethnology, but discontinued those studies later, in order to found two publishing houses. After living in Mumbai, India, for a while, he spent four years in Cape Town, South Africa. Today, he lives in Vienna.

Trojanow used to author books about Africa, including travel guides, and he translated books by African authors into German. Once the new millennium came, he started writing novels.

A film he shot in 2007 got a lot of attention. The documentary entitled ‘Vorwärts und nie vergessen – Ballade über bulgarische Helden’ (‘Forward and never forget – A ballad about Bulgarian heroes’) contained conversations with contemporary witnesses, who had vanished in notorious jails and camps, for years or decades. The film is about the crimes and atrocities of communist Bulgaria and about the failure of today’s Bulgaria to come to terms with its past.

So far, Ilija Trojanow has published a total of 26 books, five of which were translated into English.

When one of his recent novels, entitled ‘Macht und Widerstand’ (‘Power and Resistance’), which is a reckoning with communist Bulgaria, was published in Bulgarian as well, Torojanow claimed the Bulgarian translator had distorted main parts of the story. In an interview, the author said he had found out the translator had been an agent for the infamous state security service himself.

Photo source: Ilija Trojanow’s Facebook page.

 

 

 

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About the Author

Imanuel Marcus is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe. He is German and lives in Sofia. Contact: imanuelmarcus (at) gmail.com