British-Dutch translator and author Kate Briggs has joined 85-year-old memoirist Vivian Gornick and Pulitzer-winning playwright Michael R Jackson as a recipient of a $165,000 (£119,121) Windham-Campbell Prize.
The annual English-language awards, billed as one of the world's richest literary prizes, celebrate extraordinary literary achievement, rewarding each recipient with an unrestricted grant of $165,000 to support their writing and allow them to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.
In non-fiction, Briggs, whose 2017 debut, The Little Art (Fitzcarraldo Editions), explores the nature and stakes of literary translation, was chosen. Briggs teaches at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam and is currently working on a new book, a novel-essay titled The Long Form.
She said: “I am astonished by this news—I don’t expect to ever stop feeling astonished! Or endlessly, endlessly grateful. It is the most unexpected gift of freedom and permission. For it to come at this stage in my writing and translating life, when I feel like I am (still) only just beginning, is extraordinary.”
Briggs is joined by Gornick, a US critic, essayist, journalist, and memoirist whose 1987 work Fierce Attachments (Daunt Books), was described by the New York Times as the best memoir of the past half century
For fiction, two experimental writers were picked. Multi-award winner and former Poet Laureate of Toronto, Dionne Brand's most recent novel Theory (Knopf Canada) “affirmed her position as a literary tour de force”, the organisers said. There was also a prize for American Renee Gladman, best known for her critically acclaimed Ravickian quartet, which nods to Samuel Beckett and Anne Carson.
In poetry, the prize has celebrated Canisia Lubrin, who hails from St Lucia and Canada and whose work focuses on power dynamics and Black history, alongside American Natalie Scenters-Zapico, who draws on her experience of growing up in the territory between Mexico and the United States to create “politically and personally charged” work focused on borders.
For drama, Jackson, who won last year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama with his professional debut “A Strange Loop”, has been recognised as the prize’s first music theatre recipient. He joins fellow American and lauded playwright Nathan Alan Davis, whose work is an investigation of what it means to be Black in America.
Mike Kelleher, director of the Windham-Campbell Prizes, said: “Through original and intensely moving work that challenges what we think we know about genre and style, these extraordinary writers cast a forensic eye on the issues that make us human: our identity, our history, our cultural and political experiences. We are incredibly proud to recognize and celebrate such exceptional literary talent.”
The prizes are administered by Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
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