International Essay Prize Contest

Lettre International, Berlin and Weimar 1999 - Cultural Capital of Europe

In the manner of the tradition of Enlightenment Europe's academies of arts and sciences, Lettre International and Weimar 1999 - Cultural Capital of Europe, in co-operation with Goethe-Institut, are soliciting responses from a global public and in essay form to the following Prize Question. This announcement is addressed to all persons, anywhere in the world. You are invited to respond to our Prize Question in a creative way and from whatever happens to be your own cultural perspective and background. You should aim to provide the most convincing and conclusive solution possible in a spirit of open competition. On the threshold of a new millennium, this international competition of minds hopes to become a symbol of a creative and co-operative global society in the 21st century.

The Prize Question:

Liberating the Future from the Past?
Liberating the Past from the Future?


  • Authors of essays rated first, second and third will be awarded prizes of:
    DM 50.000
    DM 30.000 and
    DM 20.000 respectively.
    In addition, these authors will be invited to the official award presentation at Weimar, scheduled to take place late in 1999.
  • Prize-winners, as well as authors of other outstanding contributions, will receive a grant or stipend covering several months of study in Germany.
  • Award-winning essays, along with a choice of entries pre-selected for the Final Jury, will be published in the different national editions of Lettre International and in other literary magazines.
  • We also plan to publish a book containing a selection of those essays presented to the Final Jury in German and other languages.
Conditions of Participation:
  • Everyone and anyone may participate, except for Contest jurors and staff of Lettre International and Weimar 1999 - Cultural Capital of Europe.
  • Essays may be submitted in any of the six official UN languages, i.e. Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish, as well as in German, the Contest organizer's and host's language.
  • Essays may not be submitted which, prior to the official presentation of awards, have been either previously published or offered to third parties for publication, or which have been entered in any other competition.
  • Essays should be sent to the International Essay Prize Contest's Secretariat in two typescript copies or via e-mail no later than November 30, 1998. Date as postmark or e-mail protocol.
  • Manuscripts cannot be returned.
  • Authors of award-winning essays confer the unrestricted right of reproduction - also transferable to third parties - to the Contest organizers. This includes the right of translation and dissemination of essays in any way or form, either in part or in full, and in all languages.
    Authors whose essays have been presented to the Final Jury, but have not been awarded a prize, likewise confer the right of reproduction to the Contest holders. In case of publication, these authors will each receive a single remuneration of DM 500,-.
    In the event that essays are published in book form, their authors will receive an additional fee of at least 8 per cent of the sale price, proportionate to the length of their essay in relation to the length of the entire book.
Textual Requirements:
  • Essays submitted must not exceed the following limits in length:
    70 000 characters in German,
    64 000 characters in English, French or Spanish, (approx. 10 000 words)
    62 000 characters in Russian,
    15 000 signs in Chinese,
    54 000 characters in Arabic.
    In addition, an abstract of no more than two pages must be appended to each essay.
  • Essays must be submitted in sealed envelopes. Texts should contain no reference to the author's name or identity. Name and address of sender should be supplied in a separate, sealed envelope. Essays transferred via e-mail must be sent as attachments.
Procedure of the Contest:
  • All contributions will be anonymized by the Contest's Secretariat, furnished with a numeral code and then passed on to juries.
  • Award-winners will be chosen in a two-step selection process. The Final Jury will choose prize winners from a maximum of 49 entries.
    1. Between December 1, 1998 and May 31, 1999, seven preparatory sub-juries (one for each Contest language) will evaluate all contributions received in their respective language. Each jury will then propose a selection of no less than three essays to the Final Jury. The sub-juries will be allocated additional essays for presentation to the Final Jury in proportion to the total number of entries received in their respective language.
    2. Entries selected by sub-juries will subsequently be presented to the Final - international and interdisciplinary - Jury. The latter's final selection of award-winners will by completed by late October, 1999. Award-winners will be notified and prizes presented at an official ceremony at Weimar towards the end of 1999.
  • The seven sub-juries and the Final Jury will be composed and appointed by the Contest organizers in the course of 1998, in close co-operation with the International Essay Prize Contest's Board of Curators.

Board of Curators:
  • Sadiq Al-Azm (Syria),
  • Benjamin Barber (USA),
  • Homi K. Bhabha (USA/India),
  • Sergio Benvenuto (Italy),
  • Carmen Boullosa (Mexico),
  • Boubacar Boris Diop (Senegal),
  • Jochen Gerz (France/ Germany),
  • Edouard Glissant (France/Martinique),
  • Nilüfer Göle (Turkey),
  • Agnes Heller (USA/ Hungary),
  • Rebecca Horn (Germany),
  • Kojin Karatani (Japan),
  • Santiago Kovadloff (Argentine),
  • Horst Kurnitzky (Germany),
  • Abdellatif Laabi (France/ Morocco),
  • Detlef B. Linke (Germany),
  • Liu Xiaofeng (Hongkong/China),
  • Long Ying-Tai (Taiwan/Germany)
  • Fatima Mernissi (Morocco),
  • Masao Miyoshi (USA/ Japan),
  • Edgar Morin (France),
  • Gabriel Motzkin (Israel),
  • Pius Ngandu Nkashama (France/Congo),
  • Ryosuke Ohashi (Japan),
  • Mikhail Ryklin (Russia),
  • Joachim Sartorius (Germany),
  • Olga Sedakova (Russia),
  • Juan Villoro (Mexico),
  • Yang Lian (UK/ China),
  • Yu Jian (China),
  • Slavoj Zizek (Slovenia)

Address of the International Essay Prize Contest's Secretariat:

    International Essay Prize Contest
    Rosenthaler Strasse 13
    10119 Berlin

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