University of Rochester

Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Novel about Plath wins Kafka Prize

Kate Moses, whose novel Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath has received international acclaim for its fictional account of the last months of the poet's life, has been named the recipient of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction by an American Woman.

The prize is awarded annually to female authors of exceptional works of fiction by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies and the Department of English. Moses will visit the University in April to accept the prize and read selections from her work.

Wintering has been praised for its rich, lyrical prose and insightful and intelligent look into Plath's life, the breakup of her marriage to poet and short story writer Ted Hughes, and her eventual suicide.

"This book appealed to us on multiple levels, from its crackling prose to it poignant depiction of a women's ambition and poetic genius," says Kimberley Healey, assistant professor of French and chair of this year's prize committee. "The themes presented in Wintering go far beyond the life of one individual."

The novel has been translated into seven languages, including French, Spanish, and Chinese. Plath's friend and editor, Peter Davison, has commented: "The novel evokes the special qualities of the wife, the mother, the poet, the woman whose intensity of experience somehow overwhelmed her senses, her sanity, but never her language. No other version of those mysterious last months before Sylvia Plath's suicide goes so far to restore to life the poet, the woman, whom I knew."

Moses was born in and lives in San Francisco. She has worked as an editor in publishing and as literary director at San Francisco's Intersection for the Arts. In 1997, she became one of two founding editors of's "Mothers Who Think" Web site. Moses is coeditor of the anthology Mothers Who Think, which won the American Book Award in 2000. Wintering is her first novel.

The Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize was established in 1976 as a tribute to the memory of Janet Kafka, a young editor whose untimely death ended a career many felt would have furthered the causes of women and literature. Previous winners have included Toni Morrison for Song of Solomon and Gail Godwin for A Southern Family.

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