Thursday, May 23, 2013


The innovative and influential American writer, Lydia Davis, is tonight announced as the winner of the fifth Man Booker International Prize at an award ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  Davis was chosen from a list of ten eminent contenders.

The Man Booker International Prize, worth £60,000, is awarded for an achievement in fiction on the world stage.  It is presented once every two years to a living author for a body of work published either originally in English or available in translation in the English language. It has previously been awarded to Ismail Kadaré in 2005, Chinua Achebe in 2007, Alice Munro in 2009 and Philip Roth in 2011.

Lydia Davis was born in Massachusetts in 1947. She is best known for her short stories, a number of them among the shortest stories ever written.  Her work defies generic classification and she has been described as “the master of a literary form largely of her own invention”.   Much of her writing may be seen under the aspect of philosophy or poetry or short story, and even the longer pieces may be as short as two or three pages.

Davis is also well known for her work as a translator of French literature and philosophy, most notably for translating, to great acclaim, Marcel Proust’s complex Du Côté de Chez Swann (Swann’s Way) and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.   Her other translations include books by Maurice Blanchot, Pierre Jean Jouve and Michel Leiris.

She has won many of the major American writing awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship for fiction and was named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government.   Davis has influenced a generation of writers including Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace and Dave Eggers, who wrote that Davis, ‘blows the roof off of so many of our assumptions about what constitutes short fiction.’

Her work includes one novel, The End of the Story (1995) and seven story collections including Break It Down (1986), Almost No Memory (1997), Samuel Johnson Is Indignant (2002) and Varieties of Disturbance (2007).  A new collection, Can’t and Won’t, is due to be published in America by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in Spring 2014 and in the UK by Hamish Hamilton in June 2014.

Lydia Davis lives in New York and is a professor of creative writing at the University at Albany, the capital of New York State.

The judging panel for the Man Booker International Prize 2013 consists of the scholar and literary critic, Professor Sir Christopher Ricks (Chair); author and essayist, Elif Batuman; writer and broadcaster, Aminatta Forna; novelist, Yiyun Li and author and academic, Tim Parks.

Announcing the winner, Professor Sir Christopher Ricks comments:

‘Lydia Davis’ writings fling their lithe arms wide to embrace many a kind.  Just how to categorise them? Should we simply concur with the official title and dub them stories? Or perhaps miniatures? Anecdotes? Essays? Jokes? Parables? Fables? Texts? Aphorisms, or even apophthegms? Prayers, or perhaps wisdom literature? Or might we settle for observations?

‘There is vigilance to her stories, and great imaginative attention. Vigilance as how to realize things down to the very word or syllable; vigilance as to everybody’s impure motives and illusions of feeling.’

The Man Booker International Prize is sponsored by Man Group plc, which also sponsors the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.  The prize is significantly different from the annual Man Booker Prize in that it highlights one writer’s continued creativity, development and overall contribution to fiction on the world stage.  Both prizes strive to recognise and reward the finest modern literature.

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