Lydia Davis wins Man Booker International Prize

Lydia Davis, left, reacts as she is announced as the winner of the Man Booker International Prize at an award ceremony in London.
(Sang Tan / Associated Press)
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Lydia Davis, known for writing powerful, compact short stories, was announced as the winner of the Man Booker International Prize for fiction Wednesday. The prize, which was presented at a ceremony in London, comes with an award worth more than $90,000.

“Lydia Davis’ writings fling their lithe arms wide to embrace many a kind. Just how to categorize them?” Sir Christopher Ricks, the chair of the judging panel, said while giving the award. “Should we simply concur with the official title and dub them stories? Or perhaps miniatures? Anecdotes? Essays? Jokes? Parables? Fables? Texts? Aphorisms, or even apophthegms? Prayers, or perhaps wisdom literature? Or might we settle for observations?”

He continued, “There is vigilance to her stories, and great imaginative attention. Vigilance as how to realize things down to the very word or syllable; vigilance as to everybody’s impure motives and illusions of feeling.”

L.A. Times book critic David L. Ulin has written that Davis’ stories “are masterpieces of spare, objective writing, acute and often edgily funny: the very definition of sharp.”


Davis’ most recent collection is the chapbook “Cows,” released in 2011; two years earlier, Farrar, Straus & Giroux published the omnibus collection “The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis,” which totaled more than 750 pages.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux will publish another Davis collection, “Can’t and Won’t,” in spring 2014.

Davis was the recipient of a 2003 MacArthur “genius” fellowship and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY-Albany. She is also a much-lauded translator; for her translations of Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” and “Swann’s Way” by Proust, among others, she was awarded France’s Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.

Finalists for the award included China’s Yan Lianke, France’s Marie NDiaye, Aharon Appelfeld from Israel, India’s U. R. Ananthamurthy, Swiss novelist Peter Stamm, Intizar Husain from Pakistan, Russia’s Vladimir Sorokin, fellow American Marilynne Robinson and Josip Novakovich, who now lives in Canada.


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