Joyce Carol Oates wins 2019 Jerusalem Prize

Joyce Carol Oates wins 2019 Jerusalem Prize

American author Joyce Carol Oates has won the $10,000 Jerusalem Prize - Israel’s highest literary honour for foreign writers.

Oates will receive the prize on 12th May during the opening ceremony of the Jerusalem International Book Forum and the International Writers Festival of Mishkenot Sha’ananim.

2019 Jerusalem Prize jury members Dr Omri Herzog, Professor Shimon Adaf and jury chairman Dr Tamar Hess said: “Over the course of more than five decades, Joyce Carol Oates has created a rich body of literary work. Her creative work dictates new creative horizons and denotes a continuous breach of boundaries. Although her work is characterized by an unmistakable voice, she continues to surprise her many readers with the elaborate narratives she creates, as well as the thematic variations of her works.” 

The jury added Oates’ writing “stems from an inexhaustible reservoir of rich imagination: in each book she investigates another unknown territory. More than anything else, Oates describes and throws light on the tension between the hidden anxieties and desires that permeate the human psyche, and the forces of family, society and culture that give them form - imprisoning them and sometimes releasing them.”

The author of a number of works of fiction, poetry, non-fiction, essays, and plays, Oates is also a recipient of the National Medal of the Humanities, bestowed upon her by President Barack Obama in 2010, as well as the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Lifetime Achievement Award, the PEN/America Lifetime Achievement Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. 

Among her titles are We Were the Mulvaneys (Fourth Estate), a selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, Blonde (Fourth Estate), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and The Accursed (Fourth Estate), a “gothic” exploration of racism in early 20th century America.  

Oates said: “I am deeply honoured to be a recipient of this distinguished international literary award made to writers whose work deals with the freedom of the individual in society.  In a world in which individual freedoms are under assault, the autonomy of the individual and the role of art in our lives is of great concern. The very identity of the individual self is a theme that has long preoccupied me as one whose background has been “marginal”—rural, not prosperous, unallied with a specific religion or culture, born in an era when the term “feminist” scarcely existed.

“One of the great mysteries in my family life had to do with my father’s mother who was, we discovered after her death, Jewish. During her lifetime this was kept secret— for reasons not entirely clear to me, but which I explore in my novel The Gravedigger’s Daughter. Obviously, there is an entire dimension of my life which was inaccessible to me and which I might have considered lost, and so a visit to Israel is likely to be profound and life-changing.”

The Forum, which was previously the Jerusalem Book Fair, will run from 12th - 15th May.