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Lydia Davis, Photo by Theo Cote
NYS Writers Institute's LYDIA DAVIS Wins
2013 Man Booker International Prize


Albany, NY –  Lydia Davis, leading short story author, New York State Writers Institute Writing Fellow, and UAlbany English Department faculty member, has been awarded the Man Booker International Prize, one of the most prestigious prizes in the world of literature. The award is given every two years to authors of any nationality in order to recognize an outstanding body of work in English or available in English translation. Sir Christopher Ricks, chair of the judges’ panel, said that Davis’s “writings fling their lithe arms wide to embrace many a kind. Just how to categorise them? They have been called stories but could equally be miniatures, anecdotes, essays, jokes, parables, fables, texts, aphorisms or even apophthegms, prayers or simply observations…. There is a vigilance to her stories, and great imaginative attention.”

Writing in the Guardian (UK) in 2009, Hephzibah Anderson declared that the Booker International Prize “is fast becoming the more significant award, appearing an ever more competent alternative to the Nobel.” Previous winners have included Philip Roth (2011), Alice Munro (2009), Chinua Achebe (2007) and Ismail Kadare (2005). The prize is £60,000 (approximately $91,000).

Lydia Davis has been called “one of the quiet giants . . . of American fiction” (Los Angeles Times Book Review), “an American virtuoso of the short story form” (Salon), and “one of the best writers in America” (O Magazine). She is renowned in literary circles for perfecting the craft of the “extremely short short story,” and is beginning to enjoy a much wider readership. Novelist Dave Eggers has said that Davis’s work, “blows the roof off of so many of our assumptions about what constitutes short fiction.”

This coming fall semester at UAlbany, Davis will teach a free Community Writers Workshop over the course of several weeks, open to the public on a competitive basis, under the sponsorship of the New York State Writers Institute. Interested applicants should check our website at www.albany.edu/writers-inst for more information as it becomes available. Davis has taught Community Writers Workshops for the Institute on five previous occasions (2005-2009). Davis first visited UAlbany in 2000 as a guest of the Institute’s Visiting Writers Series. During that visit, Institute Director Donald Faulkner suggested she apply for a teaching position in the English Department. She joined the faculty and became an Institute Writing Fellow in 2002.

Her newest book is The Collected Stories (2009), a compilation of stories from four previously published volumes including Varieties of Disturbance (2007), Samuel Johnson is Indignant (2001), Almost No Memory (1997) and Break it Down (1986). Appearing to rave reviews in the mainstream press, the book is being described as a “surprise bestseller” by its publisher, Farrar Straus and Giroux.

In a New Yorker review, James Wood said, “Finally, one can read a large portion of Davis’s work, spanning three decades and more than seven hundred pages, and a grand cumulative achievement comes into view— a body of work probably unique in American writing, in its combination of lucidity, aphoristic brevity, formal originality, sly comedy, metaphysical bleakness, philosophical pressure, and human wisdom. I suspect that [the book] will in time be seen as one of the great, strange American literary contributions, distinct and crookedly personal, like the work of Flannery O’Connor, or Donald Barthelme, or J. F. Powers.”

Davis received a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation award in 2003. In granting the award the Foundation praised Davis’s work for showing “how language itself can entertain, how all that what one word says, and leaves unsaid, can hold a reader’s interest…. Davis grants readers a glimpse of life’s previously invisible details, revealing new sources of philosophical insights and beauty.”

A Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in France, Davis is also one of the most respected translators into English of French literary fiction by Proust and Flaubert, among others. In 2003, Davis published a new translation— the first in more than 80 years— of Marcel Proust’s masterpiece, Swann’s Way (2003), one of the most important literary works of the 20th century. The Sunday Telegraph (London) called the new translation “A triumph [that] will bring this inexhaustible artwork to new audiences throughout the English-speaking world.” Writing for the Irish Times, Frank Wynne said, “What soars in this new version is the simplicity of language and fidelity to the cambers of Proust’s prose… Davis’ translation is magnificent, precise.” Her 2010 translation of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary also received high praise in major publications throughout the world.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.