Lettre Ulysses Award for the art of reportage

The Idea

The goal of the Lettre Ulysses Award is to contribute to a better understanding of societal developments worldwide. Our reality, characterized by a contradictory globalization process, needs to be described accurately, in all its complexity. Accordingly, it is imperative that we have access to more profound, serious analysis and presentations of cultural differences and social developments in their simultaneity, without falling back on stereotypes.

It is precisely the shocking events that take place beyond our horizon of experience (from Rwanda and Yugoslavia to Chechnya and Afghanistan through to September 11), which have shown the world's public how superficial and illusory the familiarity can be that audiovisual mass media purport to have with cultures and conflicts. Nevertheless, to see and fully understand world events it is imperative to probe beyond the mirrors of the mass media.

Reportage writers, with their immersion in the subject, bring unknown, hidden or forgotten realities and intricacies to light. By witnessing with their own eyes and collecting and consolidating a mass of information, in forming a picture of the whole, the reportage writer can deliver a greater degree of accuracy than is generally possible with other media formats. This is what gives reportage writing its significance and authority.

Writers who combine the curiosity and courage of good journalism with the art of writing can make a decisive contribution to our perception of local and global developments. Thus, the Art of Reportage can open new vistas to unknown realities of life across the boundaries of countries and cultures, deepening our understanding of the world.

Reportage writing has a long and distinguished tradition. Some of the genre’s foremost writers include Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, Astolphe de Custine, Heinrich Heine, Ernest Hemingway, Alexander von Humboldt, Mark Twain, Anton Chekhov, Isabelle Eberhardt, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Peter Matthiessen, Amitav Ghosh, Ryszard Kapuscinski, V.S. Naipaul, and many others.

The Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage, first presented in 2003, is a public tribute to the achievements of literary reportage. It is the first world prize for this genre. A polyglot jury—made up of experienced writers from all over the world—endeavours to find the best international pieces of reportage. Likewise, the Lettre Ulysses Award seeks to provide symbolic, moral, and financial support to writers of literary reportage. In short, its goal is to support and encourage world-ranking journalists and writers, thereby enhancing the value and importance of their work.

The prize is given annually. Three prize winners are awarded a money prize, other finalists receive working grants. The prize winners are announced at a public award ceremony in Berlin.

go to top of the page

"Literary reporters should represent reality in such a way that its complexity, heterogeneity and palimpsest-like structure become clear."Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs (jury member 2004)