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Tue November 5, 2013
Book News: Mozambican Writer Wins Neustadt Prize, 'America's Nobel'
The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- The Mozambican poet, fiction writer and biologist Mia Couto has won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, a biennial award sometimes called "The American Nobel." Couto, who has written dozens of books in his native Portuguese, including novels, short stories, poetry collections and a children's book, tells PolicyMic: "It is a sad moment for Mozambique because we are starting a war that we thought would never come back again. So to receive this good news is something like a compensation for me." Sponsored by University of Oklahoma along with the Neustadt family and the journal World Literature Today, the $50,000 prize has been given to writers such as Czeslaw Milosz and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The executive director of World Literature Today, Robert Con Davis-Undiano, says in a statement, "Mia Couto is trying to lift the yoke of colonialism from a culture by reinvigorating its language. A master of Portuguese prose, he wants to lift that burden one word, one sentence, and one narrative at a time, and in this endeavor he has few if any peers."
- Catherine Chung speaks to NPR's Kat Chow about writing and embracing the label "Asian-American writer": "I love English. ... I wrote my first poem when I was seven in second grade. It was a haiku; it was my first moment where I felt like I had control over language in a way that I could express myself or understand myself. I was seven and I still remember the thrill of it, and I feel like because of that moment, I became a writer."
- For The New York Times, Fares Akram and Jodi Rudoren report on new, Hamas-influenced textbooks used by Palestinian students: "Textbooks have long been a point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which dueling historical narratives and cultural clashes underpin a territorial fight."
- Diana Chien has three poems in The American Reader. In "Paintings at Lascaux," she writes:
"The man is already wearing his death
in his face as he falls.
His fingers splay like crows' feet,
and all his thoughts have fallen
to dust, a little seed, a little clear water."
- Patti Smith recalls Lou Reed: "I didn't understand his erratic behavior or the intensity of his moods, which shifted, like his speech patterns, from speedy to laconic. But I understood his devotion to poetry and the transporting quality of his performances. He had black eyes, black T-shirt, pale skin. He was curious, sometimes suspicious, a voracious reader, and a sonic explorer. An obscure guitar pedal was for him another kind of poem."
- The Pike, Lucy Hughes-Hallett's biography of the Italian poet and demagogue Gabriele d'Annunzio, has won the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, worth £20,000 (about $32,000). The Telegraph's Sarah Crompton writes, "Her achievement is all the more astonishing since d'Annunzio, who lived from 1863 to 1938, is repellent in almost every way. He was a reckless self-publicist, a talent first revealed when he announced his own death in a riding accident at the age of 17, in order to draw attention to the republication of his first — already fantastically successful — book of poems."