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Dubravka Ugresic Wins the Neustadt Prize!

Huge congratulations to Dubravka Ugresic for winning the “2016 Neustadt International Prize for Literature!” From the press release:

World Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma’s award-winning magazine of international literature and culture, announced late Friday evening that novelist and essayist Dubravka Ugrešić has been named the 24th laureate of the renowned Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Awarded in alternating years with the NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature, the Neustadt Prize recognizes outstanding literary merit in literature worldwide.

Born in the former Yugoslavia and now residing in Amsterdam, Ugrešić is considered one of Europe’s most distinctive novelists and essayists. Marked by a combination of irony and compassion, her books have been translated into more than 20 languages, and she is the winner of several other major literary prizes, including the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (1998) and Jean Améry Essay Prize (2012). She was also a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize in 2009, and her work Karaoke Culture (2011) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.

Allison Anderson, an American literary translator and writer residing in Switzerland, nominated Ugrešić and served as one of nine jurors on the 2016 Neustadt Prize panel. She commented that “Dubravka’s win is a double win for me because she is a non-[native] English speaker and a woman. I came across her work back in 1997 when I was on contract to teach English in Croatia and fell in love with her essays. As someone who voluntarily went into exile, she describes the shared experience of solitude with her stories of refugees. She covers injustice, corruption and everything that’s wrong in the world, but in a quiet way.” [. . .]

Highly respected within the literary community for its recognition of excellence, the Neustadt Prize is often referred to as the “American Nobel” for its reputation as a lead-up to the Swedish Academy’s annual selection. Any living author writing from anywhere in the world is eligible for the Neustadt prize. The jury is comprised of acclaimed international authors, and that fact helps to keep external pressure from booksellers, publishers, and others who may have interest in influencing the outcome. [. . .]

The Neustadt Prize is the first international literary award of this scope to originate in the United States and is one of the very few international prizes for which poets, novelists and playwrights are equally eligible. Winners are awarded $50,000, a replica of an eagle feather cast in silver and a certificate.

I discovered Dubravka back in the Dalkey days, when I read an interview with her in BOMB in which she talked about a book of essays she’d written and was having trouble publishing because it was so critical of all the facets of the book industry. Immediately sold! This book became “Thank You for Not Reading“http://www.dalkeyarchive.com/product/thank-you-for-not-reading/ and is probably the book—along with Karaoke Culture—through which most readers have discovered her distinctive voice.

Fun trivia fact: The first book ever published by Open Letter was Dubravka’s Nobody’s Home. Since then we’ve brought out Karaoke Culture and most recently Europe in Sepia.

Having read every bit of her work that’s been published in English—Dubravka is most definitely one of my all-time favorite authors, and a cornerstone of the Open Letter catalog—I could go on and on about which titles of hers you should read and why. If I limit myself to six, I would choose: Thank You for Not Reading, Karaoke Culture, The Museum of Unconditional Surrender, Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, Lend Me Your Character and Europe in Sepia. So go buy all of those and read them!

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This is the last time I’m going to mention it (promise!), but having been involved in the publication of both of this year’s Nobel Prize and Neustadt Prize winners, I’m pretty sure we publish “important” books. (And I think my rage over the Ènard situation is officially over. We’ve been kicking a lot of ass over the past week, and there’s no way I’m letting some silly foreign rights agent taint that.)



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