The editors of Molossus are proud to announce, through partnership with World Literature Today, our coverage of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. The prize, biennially awarded by World Literature Today and the University of Oklahoma, is considered second in prestige only to the Nobel. Open to poets, playwrights, and prose writers alike, candidates are nominated by a panel of international writers, who vote to decide its recipient. Since its inception, in reverse order, winners include:
2008 Patricia Grace (New Zealand)
2006 Claribel Alegría (Nicaragua/El Salvador)
2004 Adam Zagajewski (Poland)
2002 Alvaro Mutis (Colombia)
2000 David Malouf (Australia)
1998 Nuruddin Farah (Somalia)
1996 Assia Djebar (Algeria)
1994 Kamau Brathwaite (Barbados)
1992 João Cabral de Melo Neto (Brazil)
1990 Tomas Tranströmer (Sweden)
1988 Raja Rao (India)
1986 Max Frisch (Switzerland)
1984 Paavo Haavikko (Finland)
1982 Octavio Paz (Mexico)
1980 Josef Škvorecky (Czechoslovakia/Canada)
1978 Czeslaw Milosz (Poland)
1976 Elizabeth Bishop (USA)
1974 Francis Ponge (France)
1972 Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia)
1970 Giuseppe Ungaretti (Italy)
On Molossus we will feature the jurors and their work, as well as recordings and photographs from the literary festival that coincides with the voting process.
Nominees for the 2010 Neustadt International Prize for Literature are:
Margaret Atwood, nominated by Joanne Leedom-Ackerman
Born in Ottawa in 1939, Margaret Atwood spent much of her childhood in Toronto and the northern Ontario wilderness. Though she did not attend school full time until she was eleven, Atwood began writing at the age of six and was an enthusiastic reader. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in English and completed her master’s degree at Radcliffe College in 1962. Atwood also studied at Harvard University from 1962–1963 and 1965–1967. She won her first of two Governor General’s Awards in 1966 for her poetry collection The Circle Game. In 2000 she received the Man Booker Prize forThe Blind Assassin. The author of thirteen novels, seventeen collections of poems, and ten short fiction collections, Atwood is one of Canada’s most renowned writers. She has won more than fifty awards, including the first Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel in 1987 for The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood has also written influential literary criticism about Canadian identity—namely, Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature. Her works have been published in more than thirty languages. She currently lives in Toronto.
Duo Duo, nominated by Mai Mang
Duo Duo (Li Shizheng) was born in Beijing in 1951. As a boy during the Cultural Revolution, Duo Duo studied at a school in the Baiyangding countryside, where he began to write poetry. He and some of his childhood classmates are considered part of the “Misty” school of contemporary Chinese poetry. His collections include Looking Out from Death: From the Cultural Revolution to Tiananmen Square (1989) and The Boy Who Catches Wasps (2002). Initially, Duo Duo’s poems were short and referenced many Western poets. In the 1980s his poems grew longer and more philosophical in nature. The morning after witnessing the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, Duo Duo flew to London, where he was scheduled to give a poetry reading at the British Museum. It was well over a decade before he returned to China, instead residing in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands. His distance from China incited the second shift in his poetry: he began to write of exile and wandering. Upon his 2004 return to China, the literary community received him with honor. Presently, Duo Duo resides on Hainan Island and teaches at Hainan University.
Athol Fugard, nominated by Pireeni Sundaralingam
South African playwright, director, actor, and novelist Athol Fugard was born in Middleburg in 1932. He spent the majority of his childhood in Port Elizabeth. After attending Cape Town University, hitchhiking Africa, and working on a steamboat for two years, he married his wife, Sheila, in 1956. Two years later, they moved to Johannesburg, where his experiences opened his eyes to the realities of apartheid. Consequently, many of his plays are commentaries on the sociopolitical barriers resulting from apartheid. Considered controversial for such plays as The Blood Knot (1961), Fugard’s work was censored by the South African government. In Johannesburg, he wrote and produced No-Good Friday (1958) and Nongogo (1959) for a theater group he organized. In the 1960s, Fugard and his wife moved back to Port Elizabeth, where he worked with the Serpent Players. The film version of his novel Tsotsi won the 2005 Academy Award for best foreign language film. He and his wife now reside in California, where he is an adjunct professor at the University of California, San Diego.
Ha Jin, nominated by Sefi Atta
Ha Jin, born Xuefei Jin in 1956 to a military family in Liaoning Province, adapted his pen name from the city of Harbin, where he resided during college. At the age of fourteen, he joined the People’s Liberation Army, serving for five years during the Cultural Revolution. When Chinese universities reopened in 1977, Ha Jin studied and passed the entrance exams. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from Heilongjiang University before attending Shandong University, where he received his master’s degree in Anglo-American Literature in 1984. Ha Jin began his graduate work at Brandeis University the following year, where he earned his Ph.D. in English. After the news of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, Ha Jin and his wife decided to stay in America. His choice to emigrate influenced his decision to write solely in English. Early in his career, Ha Jin published books of poetry and short stories. He has received awards for several of his works, including the 1999 National Book Award and the 2000 PEN / Faulkner Award for Fiction for his first full-length novel, Waiting. Currently, Ha Jin teaches at Boston University.
Shahriar Mandanipour, nominated by Niloufar Talebi
Born in 1956 in Shiraz, in the southwest of Iran, Shahriar Mandanipour knew from an early age that he wanted to be a writer. However, he chose to major in political science in college, “hoping not to become a writer unaware of what befalls and has befallen the world around him.” This conscientious approach to becoming an observer of world affairs led him to join the military at the onset of the Iran-Iraq War, in which he served at the front. After his service, he published his first collection of stories in 1989. Mandanipour has written several volumes of fiction and more than one hundred essays. His honors include the 2004 Mehregan Award for the best Iranian children’s novel and a Golden Tablet Award in 1998 for the best Iranian fiction in the previous two decades. In May 2009, Censoring an Iranian Love Story became his first novel to appear in English.
Haruki Murakami, nominated by Etgar Keret
Haruki Murakami, the son of two Japanese literature teachers, was born in 1949 in Kyoto. He grew up in Kobe, nurturing an interest in Western culture—specifically music and literature. He studied behavioral science at Waseda University in Tokyo. For seven years, Murakami owned a jazz bar in Tokyo after graduating from college. In 1979 he published Hear the Wind Sing, the first book of the “Trilogy of the Rat” and the novel for which he received the Gunzou Literature Prize for budding authors. Pinball, 1973 and A Wild Sheep Chase complete the trilogy. His 1988 novel Dance, Dance, Dance details the aftermath of the “Trilogy of the Rat.” In the early 1990s he spent four years living in the United States with his wife while teaching at Princeton. During his time in America, Murakami wrote his acclaimed novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle that received the Yomiuri Literary Prize. In 2007 Murakami published a memoir discussing his experiences with long-distance running, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Murakami’s latest novel, IQ84, is expected in Japanese this year.
Michael Ondaatje, nominated by Aleksander Hemon
First acclaimed as a poet, Michael Ondaatje is one of Canada’s most acclaimed novelists. Born September 1943 in Sri Lanka, Ondaatje moved to England with his mother in 1954, and finally to Canada in 1962, where he became a citizen. After graduating from the University of Toronto, Ondaatje continued his studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario earning his master’s degree. In 1976, after publishing four books of poetry, he released his first novel, Coming through Slaughter. Ondaatje has received more than a dozen awards for his works. His books of poetry, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-handed Poemsand There’s a Trick with a Knife I’m Learning to Do: Poems, 1963–1978, both won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction. Ondaatje has also received the Man Booker Prize, the Kiriyama Prize, and the Prix Médicis for his fiction. His third novel,The English Patient, was adapted into the Oscar-winning motion picture of the same name. Ondaatje currently lives in Toronto with his wife, Linda Spalding. He and Spalding co-edit Brick: A Literary Journal.
Ricardo Piglia, nominated by Horacio Castellanos Moya
Currently the Walter S. Carpenter Professor of Language, Literature, and Civilization of Spain at Princeton University, Ricardo Piglia is respected for his works of criticism as well as his fiction. Born in 1941 in Adrogué, a province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, he grew up in Mar de Plata, where his family moved when he was a boy. He began publishing collections of short stories in the late 1960s; the most recognized collection, Nombre falso (Eng. Assumed Name, 1995), was published in 1975. He started publishing both his critical essays and novel-length fiction in the 1980s. Respiración artificial (Eng. Artificial Respiration, 1994), his first novel, was also his first work translated into English. His novel Plata quemada (Eng. Money to Burn, 2003) was adapted into a film version in 2000. Piglia won the Silver Condor award for best screenplay in 2001 for his work on the film El astillero. As one of Argentina’s most prominent contemporary writers, Piglia has been awarded the Premio Iberoamericano de las Letras in 2005, the Premio Planeta in 1997, and the Premio Casa de las Américas in 1967.
A. B. Yehoshua, nominated by Claire Messud
Published in twenty-eight countries, A. B. Yehoshua is a prominent Israeli novelist and playwright. His work depicts the lives of often-conflicted or restless contemporary Israeli characters. Yehoshua was born in Jerusalem in 1936 and served as a paratrooper in the Israeli army before studying literature and philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In the decade between 1990 and 2000, Yehoshua received four honorary doctorates including one from Tel Aviv University. He has taught in Paris and was the writer-in-residence at Oxford’s St. Cross College in 1975. Yehoshua’s influences include William Faulkner and Franz Kafka. The Israel Prize, Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize, National Jewish Book Award, Grinzane Cavour Award, and Koret Jewish Book Award are only a few of the international honors Yehoshua has received. Politically, he is passionately involved in the Israeli peace movement. He currently lives in Haifa and teaches comparative and Hebrew literature at Haifa University.
Find more information about the prize at the World Literature Today website.