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News Release


Fiction writer and translator Lydia Davis named Fellow of the New York State Writers Institute

Contact: Suzanne Lance (518) 442-5624

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 29, 2003) -- Lydia Davis, acclaimed fiction writer, translator, and associate professor/Writer-in-Residence in the University at Albany’s Department of English has been named a Fellow of the New York State Writers Institute for the academic years 2003-2005. As a Fellow, Davis will advise the Institute’s directors on programming for the visiting writers series and other literary projects.

Lydia Davis is famous in literary circles for her extremely short and brilliantly inventive short stories. Her newest collection, “Samuel Johnson Is Indignant” (2002) is a book of 56 short, sharp meditations on life, language and such miscellaneous topics as lawns, funeral homes and jury duty. “Elle” magazine praised it for its “Highly intelligent, wildly entertaining stories, bound by visionary, philosophical, comic prose—part Gertrude Stein, part Simone Weil, and pure Lydia Davis.” “Publisher’s Weekly” said that the book “showcases the wordplay and distillation of meaning that have become her stylistic hallmarks.”

Davis’ previous works include “Almost No Memory” (stories, 1998), “The End of the Story” (novel, 1995), “Break It Down” (stories, 1986), “Story and Other Stories” (1983), and “The Thirteenth Woman” (stories, 1976).

Grace Paley wrote of “Almost No Memory” that Lydia Davis is the kind of writer “that makes you say, ‘Oh, at last!—brains, language, energy, a playfulness with form, and what appears to be a generous nature.’” Benjamin Weissman, writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, credited Davis with “one of the driest senses of humor on the planet.” The collection was chosen as one of the “25 Favorite Books of 1997” by the “Voice Literary Supplement” and one of the “100 Best Books of 1997” by the Los Angeles Times.

Davis first received serious critical attention for her collection of stories, “Break It Down,” which was selected as a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Praised by many critics for their formal and thematic eclecticism and compelling tightly-knit narratives, the stories in “Break It Down” attest, as Michiko Kakutani has written in the New York Times, “to the author’s gifts as an observer and anarchist of emotion.” The book’s positive critical reception helped to win Davis a prestigious Whiting Writer’s Award in 1988.

Davis is also a celebrated translator of French literature into English. The French government named her a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters for her distinguished translations of works by Maurice Blanchot, Pierre Jean Jouve, Francoise Giroud, Michel Butor and others.

This year, Davis published a new translation (the first in more than 80 years) of Marcel Proust’s masterpiece, “Swann’s Way,” the first volume of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time.” 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.”

Lydia Davis currently serves as associate professor and Writer-in-Residence in the University at Albany’s Department of English.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at (518) 442-5620.


Established in 1844 and designated a center of the State University of New York in 1962, the University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in eight degree-granting schools and colleges. The University is engaged in a $500 million fundraising campaign, the most ambitious in its history, with the goal of placing it among the nation's top 30 public research universities by the end of the decade. For more information about this nationally ranked University, visit

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