In anticipation of Gothenburg Book Fair's 40th anniversary, its iconic symbol, the mermaid, takes on a unique significance as it becomes a literary award.
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Press release 17th April 2024
Joyce Carol Oates awarded Sjöjungfrun – “The Mermaid Award” – accepts new Literary Prize at Gothenburg Book Fair
In anticipation of Gothenburg Book Fair's 40th anniversary, the iconic symbol from the Book Fair logo, the mermaid, takes on a unique significance as it becomes a literary award, called Sjöjungfrun in Swedish. The recipient of the very first “Mermaid Award” is the author Joyce Carol Oates, whose gripping works of fiction have deeply touched Swedish readers in a meaningful way.
"I am deeply grateful for this beautiful award from one of the most celebrated European book fairs - an unexpected honour and indeed an encouragement; writing can be a lonely life, and such recognition shines a torch into solitude," says Joyce Carol Oates in a statement.

Joyce Carol Oates will receive the award at this year’s Gothenburg Book Fair, taking place between September 26th - 29th. As the first guest announced for the 2024 fair, her participation and acceptance of the award will undoubtedly be a highlight of the anniversary event. Born in 1938 in the state of New York, Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most prominent authors in the United States. She has distinguished herself as one of the greatest voices in contemporary American literature and has been awarded several prizes, including the National Humanities Medal, National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, and PEN/Malamud Award.

Joyce Carol Oates has also been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and has written some of the most influential works of our time, including the bestselling novel Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award. Her novel Fallen became a New York Times bestseller and was awarded the Prix Femina in 2005. She has also won the 2019 Jerusalem Prize, an international literary award presented to authors whose works address human freedom in society. And now, to celebrate her significance to the Swedish reading audience, she is awarded the very first Mermaid Award.

In addition to her writing, Joyce Carol Oates is affiliated with Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Her extensive contributions to literature have made her one of the most respected and influential voices in modern American literature.

"Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most beloved authors of our time, and it is with great pleasure that we award her the very first Mermaid. Her works have touched and captivated readers worldwide, and we are proud to welcome her to this year's Book Fair," says Oskar Ekström, Program Director for Gothenburg Book Fair.

The Mermaid will be presented at a special seminar dedicated to honouring Joyce Carol Oates and her outstanding body of work. The motivation for the award reads:

"She is a literary heavyweight, whose impressive output over six decades has challenged us with questions of violence, sexuality, ethnicity, and family. Her depictions of American dreams and nightmares serve as a universal map of modern human social issues and neuroses. At the same time, her greatest works contain the sometimes-overlooked ingredients that once made the old classics read: They are entertaining tales with stylishly crafted momentum. Sjöjungfrun (The Mermaid) 2024 is awarded to one of the greatest authors of our time - Joyce Carol Oates."

Joyce Carol Oates has been to the Book Fair once before, at the beginning of its history - at the third Book Fair in order, in 1987.

The Mermaid Award is established in conjunction with the Gothenburg Book Fair's 40th anniversary. The prize will henceforth be awarded annually to an active author whose works have touched Swedish readers.

Why is there a mermaid in the Book Fair's logo?
The reading mermaid first appeared as an illustration in the first book printed in Sweden in 1483. At the book's anniversary 500 years later, in 1983, the mermaid was chosen as the symbol for the festivities. In 1985, when the founders of the Book Fair, Bertil Falck and Conny Jacobsson, were looking for a logo for the first fair, they found a plastic bag from the anniversary year. They smoothed it out, placed it in the copier, and created the first version of the Book Fair's logo. The reason why the mermaid had a slightly wrinkled tail fin in the first year was due to this process. After that, the designer Bo Berndal was tasked with creating a proper logo from the image. The mermaid was turned to the right, the name Book & Library was added - and the Book Fair had acquired a symbol that would endure for decades.
Gothenburg Book Fair in brief 
The Gothenburg Book Fair is the Nordic region’s largest cultural event. This year marks the 40th edition of the fair, which will run from 26 to 29 September 2024 at the Swedish Exhibition and Congress Centre. This year’s themes are Sápmi and Space. The Sápmi theme is being organised in partnership with Tjállegoahte (the Sápmi Writing Center), as well as the Bágo Writers’ Association and Sámi Girječálliid Searvi (the Sámi Writers Association), who are the 2024 Gothenburg Book Fair’s joint guests of honour.

Read more about the Book Fair at
For more information about Sjöjungfrun – The Mermaid award and Gothenburg Book Fair 2024, please contact:  
Maria Rogstad Norberg  
Communications Director 
+46 722 11 93 39 
For more information om Joyce Carol Oates, please contact: 
Sarah Wallskog Lindvall
PR & Marketing Manager HarperCollins
+46 705 690 227
Press photos
Please click on a thumbnail to download a full-size press photo. Note that all photographers should be credited.

Joyce Carol Oates/Photo: Private
Oskar Ekström/Photo: Andréas Bäckman
Gothenburg Book Fair/Photo: Natalie Greppi
Gothenburg Book Fair 40/Ggraphic design Jussi Öhrvall
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