British artist and author Edmund de Waal and Cheltenham-born Geoff Dyer are among the recipients of this year’s Windham Campbell Prizes.
The prizes, announced this afternoon (24th February), award three writers anywhere in the world writing in English in three categories – fiction, non-fiction and drama.
The awards, which are worth $150,000 to each of the nine winners, can be given for a body of work or extraordinary promise.
Other British winners include playwrights Helen Edmundson, and Debbie Tucker Green in the drama category.
The Windham Campbell Prizes were established by Donald Windham and Sandy M Campbell to call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.
Michael Kelleher, director of the program, said: “The Windham Campbell Prizes were created by a writer to support other writers. Donald Windham recognized that the most significant gift he could give to another writer was time to write. In addition to the recognition prestige it confers, the prize gives them just that -- with no strings attached.”
The non-fiction winners are de Waal, Dyer and John Jeremiah Sullivan.
De Waal is the author of the 2010 memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes, which won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, the Costa Book Award for Biography, and the Galaxy National Book Award for New Writer of the Year.
De Waal's second book, The White Road, is being published this September. It is a journey through a thousand years of stories about porcelain, from those who first made it in China and its collectors in Europe, to those who were destroyed by it in the darkest moments of 20th century history.
Dyer, who was born in Cheltenham and currently lives in Los Angeles, is the author of eight books of non-fiction and four novels. His most recent novel is Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi (2009), and a selection of his essays and reviews were collected in Otherwise Known as the Human Condition, which was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.
Sullivan is an essayist of “astonishing range”, whose work has appeared in The Paris Review, GQ, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Oxford American, and elsewhere. Sullivan has been awarded two National Magazine Awards, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and a Pushcart Prize and lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.
The fiction winners are Teju Cole, Helon Habila and Ivan Vladislavić.
Cole, born in the US to Nigerian parents and raised in Lagos, is the author of two works of fiction that “radically expand our understanding of diaspora and dislocation in the 21st century”.
Habila, who was arts editor of Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper, has written three novels. He is currently Associate Professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University and returns to Nigeria each summer to teach a writing workshop.
Vladislavić is a writer of fiction and non-fiction celebrated in his native South Africa for “seeing history in the quotidian and juxtaposing the banal and the bizarre”.
The drama winners are Jackie Sibblies Drury, a playwright “whose brilliant, self-reflexive plays elucidate the ways in which social divisions continue to frame and fracture our work and our world”; Edmundson, whose plays are “simultaneously vast and intimate, at once complicating familiar figures and dexterously illuminating the history they helped shape”; and Green, whose “poetic and challenging work reinvents the medium with each new production”.
The Windham Campbell Prizes, which were first awarded in 2013, are administered by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which houses the Donald Windham and Sandy M Campbell Papers. There is no submission process and winners are determined by a global group of invited nominators, a jury in each category, and a selection committee.
In September, the winners will gather from around the world at Yale for an international literary festival celebrating their work.