Novelist and essayist Dubravka Ugrešić has been awarded the 24th laureate of the $50,000 (£32,600) Neustadt International Prize for Literature, judged by a panel of acclaimed international authors.
The award was announced at the University of Oklahoma by World Literature Today - a magazine featuring international literature and culture.
The prize, referred to as the "American Nobel" for its reputation as a lead-up to the Swedish Academy’s annual selection, recognises outstanding literary merit in literature worldwide. It is awarded in alternating years with the NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature.
Ugrešić is a graudate of the University of Zagreb, born in the former Yugoslavia and now living in Amsterdam. Anti-nationalist and anti-war, her books, described as "a combination of irony and compassion”, have been translated into more than 20 languages. She is the winner of several other major literary prizes, including the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (1998) and Jean Améry Essay Prize (2012). She was also a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize in 2009, and her work 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 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.”
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."
Robert Con Davis-Undiano, World Literature Today’s executive director, added: “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 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. It is funded by an endowment from the Neustadt family, ensuring the award in perpetuity.