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The ultimate Eurovision-inspired reading list

From Austria to Ukraine, we’ve rounded up a must-read book from each competing country.

Rachel Deeley, Lucy Hall, Katie Russell and Stephen Carlick
Image: Victoria Ford / Penguin

Catchy, campy pop songs? Borderline-nonsensical lyrics? Questionable wardrobe choices? Not-so-subtle political voting tactics? Combined, they can mean only one thing: Eurovision. 

With the annual music contest’s semifinals now underway, this week will see acts from Finland to Portugal (plus Australia and Israel) vying it out for the coveted winning spot as they hope to win the hearts – and votes – of their European neighbours. In honour of this momentous cultural event, we’ve curated our own menagerie of must-read stories from each of the 37 participating countries (yes, even the micro-state of San Marino).



The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan (2009)

Initially published in Russian, this debut novel became a runaway bestseller upon its 2009 release, garnering a host of awards and a nomination for the Russian Booker Prize and turning Mariam Petrosyan into one of Armenia’s best-known international novelists. Set in a boarding school for disabled children who, bound by its walls and surveilled by ‘the Outsides’, nevertheless share a bond with the living, breathing building they inhabit, The Gray House is a fantastical magical realist tale about how seeming liabilities can be transfigured into power.







The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (2019)

Every now and again a thriller comes along that alters the genre for good (think Gone Girl). Alex Michaelides gets the mention for Cyprus for doing such a thing with his debut contribution to the genre, The Silent Patient. The British-Cypriot author studied psychotherapy for three years, and draws from his experience in the field to shape the novel's plot, which centres on a woman (Alicia Berenson) who hasn’t said a word since she shot her husband six years prior. Prepare to devour this gripping novel as 6 million other readers have before.







The Pear Field by Nana Ekvtimishvili (2015)

This debut novel by Georgian filmmaker Nana Ekvtimishvili has attracted critical attention thanks to her vivid, moving storytelling that unflinchingly scrutinises the indignity, stigma and oppression afforded to those who are overlooked in society. Set in the grim “Residential School for Intellectually Disabled Children” on the outskirts of a post-Soviet Tbilisi, The Pear Field follows 18-year-old Lela, who is old enough to leave the school but, with nowhere to go and a vendetta against one of her teachers, decides to stick around and help fellow student Irakli make the most of his shot at breaking free.










The Lives and Deaths of K. Penza by Clare Azzopardi (2022)

One of the world’s smallest countries by landmass, and with only half a million citizens, Malta has punched above its weight at Eurovision, coming in second place in both 2002 and 2005. With Clare Azzopardi, it’s now doing the same in literature. In The Lives and Deaths of K. Penza, only available in translation since 2022, Azzopardi turns the detective novel inside out: upon the death of her father, protagonist Amanda visits the mother who abandoned her when she was a child, only to find herself desperately unravelling the related mystery of the decades-ago death of her mother’s twin sister Cathy – AKA Catherine, Kitty, or K. Penza, a detective fiction author killed by a bomb in the 1980s. Talk about meta!


The Good Life Elsewhere by Vladimir Lorchenkov (2014)

There aren't many books from Moldova that have been translated into English, but fortunately this satirical tragicomedy by Vladimir Lorchenkov is one of them. In a series of vignette-like chapters, The Good Life Elsewhere follows residents of the small Moldovan village of Larga as they make their way (by any means) to Italy in search of a better, more prosperous life. Expect larger-than-life characters, drunken brawls, and a humorous portrait of post-Soviet Europe.

The Netherlands





San Marino

There are few English-translated books by authors hailing from this micro-state of around 33,000 people, and fewer still that are widely available to read. (In fact, San Marino has stumped many an ambitious reader looking to cross off a book from every country from their list.) In lieu of a published book, we thought we'd share this free short story by Sammarinese author and musician Roberto Monti. He, I Say, He is the inner monologue of a musician who's fallen on hard times, with a flowing stream of consciousness that delves in and out of notable moments from his childhood, many of them featuring brief references to a certain famous masked vigilante.







The United Kingdom

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