European Union Prize for Literature

Creative EuropeEuropean and International Booksellers FederationEuropean Writers' CouncilFederation of European Publishers

Winning Authors

Lidija Dimkovska, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

About the author:

Lidija Dimkovska was born in 1971 in Skopje, Macedonia. She is a poet, novelist, essayist, and translator. She studied Comparative Literature at the University of Skopje and took a PhD in Romanian Literature at the University of Bucharest, Romania. She has worked as a lecturer of Macedonian language and literature at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Bucharest, and as a lecturer of World Literature at the University of Nova Gorica, Slovenia. Since 2001 she has been living in Ljubljana, Slovenia, as a freelance writer and translator of Romanian and Slovenian literature into Macedonian. She has participated at numerous international literary festivals and was a writer-in-residence in Iowa, Berlin, Graz, Vienna, Salzburg, and London.In 2009, she received the Hubert Burda literary prize for young East European poets and, in 2012, she won the Tudor Arghezi international poetry prize in Romania. She is a member of the jury for the Vilenica international literary award in Slovenia, and the Zbigniew Herbert international award for poetry.

Her first book Skriena Kamera (Hidden Camera) was published in 2004, winning the Writers’ Union of Macedonia award for the best prose book of the year. It was also shortlisted for the Utrinski Vesnik award for the best novel of the year. It has been translated into Slovenian, Slovakian, Polish and Bulgarian.

Backup Life received the Writers’ Union of Macedonia award for the best prose book of the year and was also shortlisted for the Utrinski Vesnik award for the best novel of the year.

Publishing house:

ul. Vasil Glavinov 3
1000 Skopje, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Contact person: Igor Angelkov - e-mail:

Translation deals:

Author contact:

Book awarded:



Backup Life is an original story about two Macedonian Siamese twins joined at the head, Srebra and Zlata, and their struggle for individuality, privacy and a life of their own. The story is told by Zlata and begins in 1984, in a June suburban afternoon in Skopje, and it ends on August 18, 2012, at the exact same location. The game the characters play is the same: Fortune Telling (who’s going to marry whom, at what age, how many children will they have, what city will they live in and will their husbands be rich or poor). Later in the novel, their prophecies come true, but in a tragic fashion. In the beginning, Srebra and Zlata (the names are a play on ‘silver’ and ‘gold’, respectively) get to play the game; in the end, it belongs to Zlata’s daughters, Marta and Marija, also twins. The circle is complete, including 28 years of living, growing, suffering pain, and experiencing love and hate. There is also darkness due to death, the separation of conjoined twins, and the break-up of joint Yugoslav republics and autonomous regions. Srebra is left on the outside: the circle closes without her, for she ‘does not survive’, much like the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia after its split. Up to 1996, the action takes place in Skopje, Macedonia, and from 1996 to 2012 in Skopje and London. The novel takes in the death of a child, the heavy burden of guilt, hatred, weddings and funerals, incest, murder, passport falsification, a poverty of the soul disguised as social poverty, faith and God, holidays and traditions, masturbation, family dysfunction to the nth degree, and acculturation. The novel is a personal, political, and historical story about the time we live in and the people we identify with.


Translated by Ljubica Arsovska & Peggy Reid


That June afternoon in front of our block of flats on the outskirts of Skopje, Srebra, Roza and I played a completely new game: fortune telling. On the hot concrete of the sloping driveway leading to the residents’ garages we used white chalk to draw squares then wrote in them the age at which we wanted to get married. We must have been a sight for every passer-by, and even more for the neighbours sitting on their balconies or standing by the open windows of our block of flats, who knew us very well: in fact my sister and I were twins, Siamese twins, with heads joined at the temple, right above my left and her right ear. We were born like that, to our misfortune and the great shame of our parents. We both had long, thick chestnut-brown hair that covered the place where we were joined, or at least so we thought; at first sight it looked as if we were squatting with our heads leaning together, and all the way down our bodies were free, dressed in little summer dresses with no shoulder straps but held up with elastic above the breast, I in a green dress with little yellow flowers, and my sister in a red one with blue and white dots. At the age of twelve the only thing my sister, Sreba, and I, Zlata, could be ashamed of was our names. How could anyone name their children, girls, Srebra (Silver) and Zlata (Gold)? Children already marked at that, by joined heads, and abnormal as far as other people were concerned. These were names for old women, for stair-cleaners, or for the women selling potatoes in front of the bakery. Mum used to silence us with arguments when we came down on her about our names: “That’s how your godfather wanted it, Zlata after Saint Zlata of Meglen, and Srebra after a certain Srebra Apostolova who killed two beys in Lerin.” “Stupid,” that was always our comment, one of the few that were concerted. The godfather never set foot in our house after the christening, it was as if the earth had swallowed him up. In fact he had left for Australia to earn a living and wrote us off his consciousness for ever. “Zlata in the gutter, Srebra no vertebra,” the children teased us in the street, and apart from Roza, and sometimes Bogdan, no one else ever played with us. Some weren’t allowed to by their parents, so that they wouldn’t have nightmares from playing with us, the “abnormal”, during the day, and others fled us of their own free will and threw pebbles at us from a distance, shouting “retards”.

More info on the author with excerpt in o.v. and EN or FR (PDF)

Rave Media Reviews:

Backup Life by Lidija Dimkovska is an extensive novel that is read in one breath. The attraction lies in the original tale of Siamese twins Srebra and Zlata and their connection through their heads. It is the frame and the micro world in this book brought to perfection, composed of  details of the private lives of girls, of their feelings, memories, smells, one almost naturalistic review of this double life,  of the strange relationship and the struggle for individuality and personal  happiness. (Aleksandra Jurukovska, daily newspaper Dnevnik, Skopje, Macedonia)

I cannot recall reading in Macedonian a more nuanced and precise rendition of artistically ‘handled’ political implications, subtle and clever political allusions, but also radical stances articulated as ‘art’. Yet, Backup Life’s body is not the body politic of a political novel, in any one way. It is a powerful, massive body of a fierce personal saga, belonging to an individual who, both literally and symbolically, has been merged with the Other, with an Otherness without which it is left in constant mortal danger... It is truly magical to read a novel this complex, this worldly, in one’s native language, accompanied by all the possible nuanced meanings of the atribute “worldly”. (Olivera Kjorveziroska,

Other Works:

Skriena Kamera (Hidden Camera)

2004 Award of Writer's Union of Macedonia for the best prose book of the year and short-listed for the “Utrinski vesnik” award for the best novel of the year. It has been translated in Slovenian (Cankarjeva, Ljubljana, 2006), Slovakian (Kalligram, Bratislava, 2007), Polish (PIW, Warszawa, 2010) and Bulgarian (Balkani, Sofia, 2010).

pH Neutral History, Copper Canyon Press, the US, ISBN 978-1-55659-375-8

pH Neutral History, 2012, poetry collection translated in English by Ljubica Arsovska and Peggy Reid, shortlisted for The Best Translated Book Award 2013.

Anstandiges Madchen, Edition Korrespondenzen, Vienna, Austria, ISBN 978-3-902113-73-3

Anstandiges Madchen, 2010, poetry collection translated in German by Alexander Sitzmann, shortlisted for the German literary »Brucke Berlin Prize«.

Awards Received: