The Prize

This international prize is intended to highlight the primary importance of the literary genre of the essay for a society that relies on dialogue and the confrontation of ideas to inform its choices for the future.

Awarded since 1975 by the Charles Veillon Foundation, the prize is endowed with CHF 20,000. The award ceremony features public lectures and debates.

For the Prix Européen de l’Essai, the jury rewards a literary work that expresses a thought experience in its subjective, innovative, antidogmatic and scholarly dimensions. The selection process places great importance on the quality of the writing, recognising the essay as the most accomplished form of “reflective prose”.

Each essay has its sources of inspiration, its literary or intellectual origins; its author shares these so that the individual adventure that gave rise to it becomes accessible and part of a wider dimension. In the spirit of Montaigne, the essay is a shake-up that frees itself from preconceived ideas to embrace the ambiguity of reflection.

The Prize is European because it claims no national ties. It is European because it is part of the European heritage, where a plurality of languages, cultures and ways of thinking coexist. In Europe, the continent of translation, the essay as we appreciate it embodies universality and identity, the discordant ideals of our common history.

Are you an editor who wishes to propose an essay for the Prize?

You may send a copy of the essay you wish to be considered between January and September to the Charles Veillon Foundation.

It will be read by three members of the Jury. If these three readers react positively to the work, it will be added to the Jury’s list of titles eligible to receive the European Essay Prize.

The Jury does not provide feedback on essays. Copies are not sent back once received.

Postal address:
Fondation Charles Veillon
Avenue de l’Eglise-Anglaise 18
CH – 1006 Lausanne

We will consider as an essay a work that shares a problem related, in any relevant way, to contemporary issues, allowing the reader to position itself in relation to this problem, to develop its own reflection and, perhaps, to take action.

The Prize awards essays:

  • encouraging dialogue and the exchange of practices and ideas
  • promoting openness to experience: based on the model of scientific experience, a continual questioning of the thinking process
  • adopting an accessible and elegant narrative form
  • integrating a spiritual dimension (more secular than confessional) which gives meaning and orientation to the behaviour of individuals belonging to the same shared world.

Jury of the European Essay Prize

The jury is formed by members from very diverse backgrounds.

  • Joëlle Kuntz, writer and journalist
  • Antonio Loprieno, egyptologist and linguist, President of the Académies suisses des sciences
  • Gesa Schneider, Director of the House of Literature in Zurich
  • Michael Wirth, cultural advisor, History and German teacher

Council Members of the Foundation (the members of the Council are members of the Jury):

  • Lucie Kaennel, theologian and judaist, translator
  • Francesco Panese, vice-president of the Foundation, professor of social studies of science and medicine at the University of Lausanne
  • Cyril Veillon, president of the Foundation
  • Jacques Zwahlen, lawyer

Former members

  • Caroline Abu Sa’Da, Director General of SOS MEDITERRANÉE Suisse (2022-2024)
  • Christiane Asté, theologian, (1999-2010), Secretary General from 2004 to 2007
  • Andris Barblan, historian (1973-2004), Secretary General
  • Lukas Bärfuss, novelist and essayist (2021-2023)
  • Ahmed Benani, political scientist and anthropologist of religions (2007-2016)
  • Edmond Bertholet, notary (1972-1993), Vice President
  • Jean-Charles Biaudet, historian (1981-1998)
  • François Bondy, journalist and novelist (1972-1991)
  • Bernard Böschenstein, professor of German literature (1999-2018)
  • Iso Camartin, author, publicist and anchorman (1991-1994)
  • Fernand Cardis, physician (1972-1986)
  • Stéphanie Cudré-Mauroux, curator at the Swiss Literary Archives (2005-2017)
  • Pierre du Bois, historian (1998-2001)
  • Jacques Freymond, historian (1986-1993)
  • Claude Frochaux, publisher (1994-2010)
  • Ghislaine Glasson-Deschaumes, journalist, researcher in political sciences (1995-1998)
  • Ferdinand Gonseth, philosopher (1972-1975)
  • Jean-Pierre Hocké, economist, diplomat (1999-2021)
  • Henri Isliker, physician (1980-2000)
  • Georg Kohler, philosopher, publicist and author (1998-2007)
  • Hugo Loetscher, writer (1986-1997)
  • Martin Meyer, journalist, publicist and essayist (1995-2000)
  • Alison de Puymege, historian (1986-1993)
  • Jean-Pierre Rageth, theologian (1997-2010)
  • Jean Rossel, physicist (1976-1997)
  • Denis de Rougemont, writer, philosopher (1972-1985)
  • Alain Schaerlig, mathematician and economist (1972-1975, 1981-2002)
  • Jean Starobinski, writer, historian, physician (1978-1980)
  • Hubert Thüring, professor of German literature (2007-2020)
  • Jean Vallat, economist (1972-1994)
  • Pascal Veillon, pastor (1972-2014), President
  • André Veillon, engineer (1972-2006)
  • Jean-Claude Veillon, businessman, industrialist (1972-2007)

The Recipients

2024: Dipesh Chakrabarty
Après le changement climatique, penser l’histoire
Paris: Gallimard, 2023

2023: Arundhati Roy
for lifetime achievement.
On the occasion of the French translation of Azadi – Liberté, fascisme, fiction
Paris: Gallimard, 2021

2022: Mona Chollet
Réinventer l’amour
Éditions La Découverte, 2021

2021: Johny Pitts
Afropeans, Notes from Black Europe
Massot Editions, 2020

2020: Alessandro Baricco
The Game
Gallimard, 2019

2019: Siri Hustvedt
Les mirages de la certitude
Actes Sud, 2018

2018: Marcel Gauchet
pour l’ensemble de son œuvre

2016: Richard Sennett
Together: The Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation
Yale University Press, 2013
Ensemble: Pour une éthique de la coopération
Paris, Albin Michel, 2014

2013: Harald Weinrich
pour l’ensemble de son œuvre

2012: Heinz Wismann
Penser entre les langues
Paris, Albin Michel, 2012

2010: Jean-Claude Mathieu
Écrire, inscrire
Paris, José Corti, 2010

2009: Claudio Magris
pour l’ensemble de son œuvre

2008: Peter Sloterdijk
Zorn und Zeit
Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp Verlag, 2006
Colère et temps
Paris, Maren Sell, 2007

2007: Jan Assmann
pour l’ensemble de son œuvre

2006: Giorgio Agamben
pour l’ensemble de son œuvre

2005: Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine
Esprits d’Europe
Paris, Calmann-Lévy, 2005

2004: Martin Meyer
Krieg der Werte. Wie wir leben, um zu überleben
Zürich, Nagel & Kimche, 2003

2003: Alain de Botton
L’Art du Voyage
Paris, Mercure de France, 2003

2002: Peter von Matt
Die tintenblauen Eidgenossen
München, Hanser Verlag, 2001

2001: Jean-Claude Guillebaud
Le Principe d’humanité
Paris, Seuil, 2001

2000: Peter Bichsel
Alles von mir gelernt, Kolumnen 1995-1999
Frankfurt, Suhrkampf, 2000

1999: Amin Maalouf
Les identités meurtrières
Paris, Grasset & Fasquelle, 1998

1998: Tzvetan Todorov
Benjamin Constant. La passion démocratique
Paris, Hachette, 1997

1997: Karl-Markus Gauss
Das Europäische Alphabet
Wien, Paul Zsolnay, 1997

1996: Dubravka Ugrešić
Die Kultur der Lüge
Frankfurt, Suhrkampf, 1995

1995: Etienne Barilier
Contre le nouvel obscurantisme. Éloge du progrès
Genève, Zoé-Hebdo, 1995

1994: Dzevad Karahasan
Un déménagement
Paris, Calmann-Lévy, 1994

1993: Jane Kramer
Sonderbare Europäer, tome I
Paris, Grasset & Fasquelle, 1990
Des cités et des hommes, tome II
Paris, Grasset & Fasquelle, 1991

1992: Predrag Matvejevitch
Bréviaire méditerranéen
Fayard, 1992

1991: Roberto Calasso
Les noces de Cadmos et Harmonie
Paris, Gallimard, 1991

1990: Karl Schlögel
pour l’ensemble de son œuvre

1989: Timothy Garton Ash
The Uses of Adversity. Essays on the Fate of Central Europe
London, Granta Books, 1989

1988: Eduardo Lourenço
pour l’ensemble de son œuvre

1987: Edgar Morin
pour l’ensemble de son œuvre

1986: Iso Camartin
Nichts als Worte? Plädoyer für Kleinsprachen
Zürich, Artemis, 1985

1985: György Konrad
Antipolitik (Mitteleuropäische Meditationen)
Frankfurt, Suhrkampf, 1985

1984: Alain Finkielkraut
La sagesse de l’amour
Paris, Gallimard, 1984

1983: Lars Gustafsson
pour l’ensemble de son œuvre

1982: Jean Starobinski
Montaigne en mouvement
Paris, Gallimard, 1982

1981: Norberto Bobbio
pour l’ensemble de son œuvre

1980: Leszek Kolakowski
pour l’ensemble de son œuvre

1979: Manès Sperber
Churban, oder die unfassbare Gewissheit
Wien, Europa Verlag, 1979

1978: Roger Caillois
Le fleuve Alphée
Paris, Gallimard, 1978

1977: Alexandre Zinoviev
Les hauteurs béantes
Lausanne, L’Âge d’Homme, 1977

1976: Ernst F. Schumacher
Small is Beautiful
London, Blond & Briggs, 1973

1975: Jacques Ellul
Trahison de l’Occident
Paris, Calmann-Lévy, 1975