Kresnik was awarded for the first time in 1991

Drago Jančar is the only writer so far to have received four Kresniks.
Fotografija: FOTO: Blaz Samec/Delo
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FOTO: Blaz Samec/Delo
For three decades now, the Kresnik Award for the best novel of the year, bestowed by the Delo publishing house, has been ensuring that the best of the best contemporary Slovenian novels receive recognition. The Kresnik Award was conceived by the writer Vlado Žabot and bestowed for the first time in 1991 in Razkrižje, at an event organised by the Slovenian Writers’ Association. The venue then moved to Muljava, the home of the Slovenian writer Josip Jurčič, for a number of years, then to Ljubljana Castle and – after the organisation and awards ceremony was taken over by the Delo publishing house – it eventually settled on Rožnik Hill, also named Cankar’s Peak after the greatest Slovenian writer.

Every year on midsummer night according to the folk calendar, after a one-hour deliberation, a jury declares the winner and a bonfire is lit in honour of the novel. The bonfire on Rožnik Hill, lit by the author of the best novel of the previous year, provides illumination to allow readers to see better: from the very beginning, the traditional midsummer’s flame has been burning in honour of the Slovenian novel, its media response and its authors, but its greatest task is to cast light for the readers to find their way to books.

Over time, the closing evening, which provides new reading adventures to both the audience on Rožnik Hill and book-lovers in their armchairs, has grown into an important and highly visible event of the literary season, especially with regard to the book market, which is characterised by a high number of books borrowed in general libraries and a much lower number bought in bookshops. However, the Slovenian novel, as shown by the Delo Kresnik Award, is in good shape. It is perfectly healthy – the first year, the winner was selected from 17 nominees and for quite some time now, the jury has been reading and evaluating a much bigger quantity of books, as the number of original Slovenian debut novels has now risen to over 100.

Three decades have brought about another two special prizes: in 2016, upon the 25th anniversary of the award, the novel Kristalni čas (Crystal Time) by Lojze Kovačič received the ‘Kresnik of Kresniks Award’, and last year the novel To noč sem jo videl (I Saw Her That Night) received the ‘Kresnik of the Last Decade Award’; its author Drago Jančar is the only writer so far to have received four Kresniks. The novelists Goran Vojnović and Andrej Skubic have each received three, while Lojze Kovačič and Feri Lainšček two.

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