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.
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!
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.)
As announced Friday, Mia Couto has won this year’s Neustadt International Prize for Literature:
Gabriella Ghermandi, who nominated Couto for the Neustadt Prize, said of him, “He is an author who addresses not just his country but the entire world, all human beings.”
Couto is the first Mozambican author to be nominated for and to win the Neustadt Prize. He is considered to be one of the most important writers in Mozambique, and his works have been published in more than 20 languages.
Born in 1955 in Beira, Mozambique, Couto began his literary career in the struggle for Mozambique’s independence, during which time he edited two journals. Raiz de Orvalho, Couto’s first book of poetry, was published in 1983. His first novel and the novel that was the representative text for the Neustadt, Sleepwalking Land, was published in 1992 to great acclaim and is widely considered one of the best African books of the 20th century.
Couto is known for his use of magical realism as well as his creativity with language. In her nominating statement, Ghermandi wrote, “Some critics have called Mia Couto ‘the smuggler writer,’ a sort of Robin Hood of words who steals meanings to make them available in every tongue, forcing apparently separate worlds to communicate. Within his novels, each line is like a small poem.”
This year, Couto also received the 2013 Camões Prize for Literature, a prestigious award given to Portuguese-language writers.
Sleepwalking Land is available from Serpent’s Tail, and is definitely worth reading.
ALSO worth checking out though is The Tuner of Silences, which came out recently from Biblioasis.
Translated from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw, here’s a synopsis:
Mwanito Vitalício was eleven when he saw a woman for the first time, and the sight so surprised him he burst into tears.
Mwanito’s been living in a big-game park for eight years. The only people he knows are his father, his brother, an uncle, and a servant. He’s been told that the rest of the world is dead, that all roads are sad, that they wait for an apology from God. In the place his father calls Jezoosalem, Mwanito has been told that crying and praying are the same thing. Both, it seems, are forbidden.
The eighth novel by The New York Times-acclaimed Mia Couto, The Tuner of Silences is the story of Mwanito’s struggle to reconstruct a family history that his father is unable to discuss. With the young woman’s arrival in Jezoosalem, however, the silence of the past quickly breaks down, and both his father’s story and the world are heard once more.
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Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .