By Dennis Abrams
World Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma’s magazine of international literature and culture, has announced that novelist and essayist Dubravka Ugrešić has been named the 24th Laureate of the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature.
The prize, awarded in alternating years with the NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature, recognizes outstanding literary merit in literature worldwide.
Born in the former Yugoslavia and now living in Amsterdam, Ugrešić is viewed as one of Europe’s most distinctive novelists and essayists. Her books have been translated into more than 20 languages, and have won for her the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (1998) and the Jean Amery Essay Prize (2012). She was a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize in 2009, and her essay collection, 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 the nine jurors on the 2016 Neustadt Prize panel. She said:
“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.”
Robert Con Davis-Undiano, World Literature Today’s executive director, expressed his enthusiasm for the decision: “As is always the case, there was a stellar list of candidates this year, and the jury had to work very hard. One would be hard pressed to find a more topical and relevant subject than her honest and compelling stories about how refugees struggle. We are honored to recognize and hopefully further elevate Ms. Ugrešić’s work throughout the U.S. and world.”
The announcement was made at a banquet honoring Meshack Asare of Ghana, the winner of the 2015 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature.
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. A generous endowment from the Neustadt family of Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; and Watertown, Massachusetts; ensures the award in perpetuity.
On learning of her win, Ugrešić said, “I’m delighted to win the prize, especially in light of such strong competition. I am already looking forward to being there with World Literature Today for the festival in 2016.”