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UAlbany Professor, Writers Institute Fellow Lydia Davis wins Man Booker International Prize for Fiction


Lydia Davis poses with the Man Booker International Prize upon receiving the award on May 22.

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 23, 2013) -- University at Albany English Professor Lydia Davis has won one of the most prestigious awards in all of literature, the fifth Man Booker International Prize for fiction. The $93,000 award is presented every two years to a living author of any nationality for a body of work published in English or widely available in English translation.

Davis, who is also a fellow at the New York State Writers Institute, is considered one of the most acclaimed short story writers in the world. As Observer critic William Skidelsky once said, her body of work “redefines the meaning of brevity.” Her short story collections include “Collected Stories of Lydia Davis” (2009), “Varieties of Disturbance” (May 2007), “Samuel Johnson Is Indignant” (2001), “Almost No Memory” (1997), “Break It Down” (1986), “Story and Other Stories” (1983), and “The Thirteenth Woman” (1976). A new collection, "Can't and Won't", is due to be published in the United States in 2014. She has also written one novel, “The End of the Story,” which was published in 1995.

“Lydia Davis has repeatedly challenged our notions of storytelling, and in doing so has influenced a generation of writers, both here in Albany and on the international stage,” said UAlbany President Robert J. Jones. “We’re extremely proud of her great honor and international acclaim.”

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.”

Davis, who teaches creative writing at UAlbany, is also an accomplished translator, whose English versions of Marcel Proust's Du Cote de Chez Swann and Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary helped earn her a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in France.

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. 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. She joined the faculty and became an Institute Writing Fellow in 2002.

In, 2003, Davis received one of 25 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” awards. In granting the $500,000 award, the MacArthur 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.”

Previous winners of the Man Booker International Prize include U.S. novelist Philip Roth in 2011, Canadian novelist Alice Munro in 2009, the late Nigerian poet and novelist Chinua Achebe in 2007 and Albanian writer Ismail Kadare in 2005.