Strega Prize Explained

The Strega Prize (Premio Strega) is the most prestigious Italian literary award. It has been awarded annually since 1947 for the best work of prose fiction by an Italian author and first published between 1 May of the previous year and 30 April. Winners have included Cesare Pavese (1950), Alberto Moravia (1952),Giorgio Bassani (1956),Elsa Morante (1957),Dino Buzzati (1958),Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1959),Natalia Ginzburg (1963),Tommaso Landolfi (1975),Primo Levi (1979),Umberto Eco (1981),Gesualdo Bufalino (1988) andClaudio Magris (1997).

History

In 1944 Maria and Goffredo Bellonci started to host a literary salon at their home in Rome. These Sunday gatherings of writers, artists and intellectuals grew to include many of the most notable figures of Italian cultural life. The group became known as the Amici della Domenica, or ‘Sunday Friends’. In 1947 the Belloncis, together with Guido Alberti, owner of the firm which produces the Strega liqueur, decided to inaugurate a prize for fiction, the winner being chosen by the Sunday friends.

The activities of the Bellonci circle and the institution of the prize were seen as marking a tentative return to ‘normality’ in Italian cultural life: a feature of the reconstruction which followed the years of Fascism, war, occupation and liberation. The first winner of the Strega, elected by the Sunday Friends, was Ennio Flaiano, for his first and only novel Tempo di uccidere, which is set in Africa during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. It has been translated into English as The Short Cut.

The selection process

Since the death of Maria Bellonci in 1986, the prize has been administered by the Fondazione Maria e Goffredo Bellonci.The members of the now 400-strong prize jury, drawn from Italy’s cultural elite, are still known as the Sunday Friends. For a book to be considered it must have the support of at least two Friends. This initial long list is whittled down at a first ballot to a short list of five. The second round of voting, followed by the proclamation of the victor, takes place on the first Thursday in July in the nymphaeum of the Villa Giulia, Rome.

Sponsorship

Recently Telecom Italia have joined Liquore Strega as sponsors of the prize.

Premio Strega speciale, 2006

In 2006, the seventieth year of the Strega Prize, a special award was made to the Constitution of Italy, a document which was drawn up and approved during 1946, the year of the Strega’s birth. The award was received by ex-President of the Italian Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro.

Winners

External links