Dispatches from the Republic of Letters: 50 Years of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature

Edited by Daniel Simon. Deep Vellum, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64605-033-8
This inspiring anthology assembled by Simon, editor of World Literature Today magazine, collects acceptance speeches for the Neustadt literary prize, awarded every two years at the University of Oklahoma. Created as a more globally inclusive alternative to the Nobel, the prize has been given both to internationally lauded writers, such as Gabriel García Márquez and Octavio Paz, and to writers better known in their home countries, such as New Zealand’s Patricia Grace and Mozambique’s Mia Couto. The speeches themselves range from personal recollections to meditations on literature. Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah recalls a multilingual and culturally tolerant childhood, “reading books in foreign tongues and listening to the oral wisdom transmitted in Somali”; Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer affirms that “love... is the only realistic basis for poetry translation.” The anthology also tracks changing political concerns since the award’s 1969 founding. The 1986 winner, Max Frisch, donated his prize money to a Nicaraguan nonprofit to protest Reagan administration policies; the 1996 winner, Assia Djebar, having fled religious fundamentalism in her native Algeria, emphasized that the jurors had given the “power of solidarity to the solitude of my exile.” Like the prize itself, this volume is a tribute and a testament to literature, and a reward for readers. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 04/16/2020
Release date: 10/20/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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