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Anna Leader, pictured with her parents, moved to Luxembourg with her family in 2000
Photo: Luc Deflorenne/archives
A budding American writer said she was “thrilled” to have won the young writer’s prize in this year’s Luxembourg literary contest centred around theatre plays.
Anna Leader’s “Outlast” wowed judges of the annual competition, which was open to French, German, English or Luxembourgish submissions from residents or Luxembourgers.
“I am so honoured and proud to live in a country that dedicates so much of its resources to culture, literature, and the arts,” she told Delano via email from the US, where she is working.
The 22-year-old’s play is based on the Luxembourg Melusina myth, about a mermaid who hid her true identity from her husband.
She said she wanted to write something to express the joyful privilege of living in a “developed jewel of a country”, while addressing the fears for the future that the world faces.
“In ‘Outlast’, I imagine a counterfactual history, told in short unchronological scenes. Melusina, who is immortal, has been the political leader of Luxembourg for centuries; dozens of human husbands have grown old and died at her side,” she explained. “By the second half of the twenty-first century, the threat of climate change looms over the country and characters. Melusina is struggling to stay in power, protect a consumerist nation from itself, conceal her mermaid tail, and come to terms with her bewildering love for the young and idealistic Lila.”
Leader said she drew inspiration from Miles Carey’s play, “Trash Mermaids”, which employs the mermaid motif to address ecological and queer themes.
Leader was born in Bellingham, Washington, in 1996 and moved to Luxembourg with her family in 2000. She was schooled at the International School of Luxembourg before studying comparative literature at Princeton University in the US.
This is not the first time she has been recognised in the national contest: in 2014, her historical novel “A Several World Vienna 1912-1919” secured the national literary contest youth prize while she won the 2015 prize for her poetry collection “A Lifetime Lies”. Added to these are several other awards and publications in a number of poetry journals.
The talent for writing appears to run in the family since Leader’s father, James Antony Leader, is also a prize-winning poet and young adult fiction author. The European School English teacher won the first prize in the national literary competition in 2016 for his fiction novel “The Venus Zone”. More recently, he came second in the Wexford Literary Festival for his poem “Europe, 1945”.
The winners for the adult’s section of this year’s contest were in first place Romain Butti, for “Fir wann ech net méi kann”, Charles Meder with “Geheimdienstkönige”, and Samuel Hamen for “Tagebuch des Fremdalterns”.