2016 Neustadt Prize Finalists Announcement

2016 Neustadt Prize Finalists Announcement


It’s great to be here
I’ve been in Colorado for, I don’t know, 35 years now
even though I’m only 35. But, you know, I was born and raised in Oklahoma,
and my family has a very long history with the University. It goes back decades to my
great-grandfather in 1940. I grew up about 90 miles from Norman, in a small town between
Dallas and Oklahoma City, and back in the 1940s OU wanted to buy about 130 acres of
land just outside of Norman, and my great-grandfather and his family helped the university to purchase
the land. And that today is the Max Westheimer Airfield, where the severe weather center,
is that where it is? Is on the Max Westheimer field. And I just gotta tell you, they bought
it for $10,000 back in 1940 which was probably a lot of money. But can you imagine $10,000
buying you an airport? That doesn’t happen much anymore. And their love for this institution
really continued down through the generations. I am fifth generation. Unfortunately, probably
the last from Oklahoma… since Oklahoma, Colorado, you know. No offense, right?
Anyway, my grandmother, her name is Doris Neustadt. She loved, she didn’t go to OU,
she actually, in 1916, from Ardmore, Oklahoma, went to Columbia University in New York where
she met my grandfather. And then for some reason he moved from New York down to Ardmore,
Oklahoma. Anyway, she loved OU so much. And every Saturday that Oklahoma football was
in Norman, we would come up and we would tailgate with fried chicken and deviled eggs. She was
an amazing, articulate, literate, elegant woman. And as a present, her children donated
a wing of the library, the Doris Neustadt wing of the library, and I just wanted to
tell you that when they did the dedication, they did a tribute, and they said that it
was fitting to name it after her because of her love and her appreciation for both the
spoken and the written word. So it’s fitting that in 1976, the Neustadt International Prize
for Literature was endowed. And has become, at some point, known as the American Nobel
because of how many winners, jurors, and candidates have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. It’s
an amazing award in so many ways, not just because of the caliber of the laureates, like,
for instance, Gabriel Garcia Marquez has won the prize, Elizabeth Bishop, Rohinton Mistry,
who wrote A Fine Balance which is a wonderful novel. And also because of the way that the
candidates are nominated and how they’re chosen and the criteria for that. It’s one of the
few international prizes for which poets, novelists, and playwrights are equally eligible.
So, in a nutshell, like Daniel said, the editorial board of WLT picks between 8 and 10 jurors
and then each juror picks a candidate, and every fall these jurors from all over
the world come to Norman and they meet on campus to deliberate and to vote and they
also are wonderful with their time because they do seminars and many of the OU students
and even students from around Oklahoma and Colorado even have come and listened to the
speakers and do some seminars. But the voting is done with something called a positive elimination,
so they talk about each of their candidates and then they’re asked to vote out of 10 candidates,
to vote for their top 9. And then to vote for their top 8, and then it just, it’s a
very positive way of picking the winner, and it goes like this until it’s down to two,
and then the winner is picked. It’s an amazing process, everyone buys in, and is so happy
and invested in their choice. So, tonight. I’m going to announce the finalists for the
2016 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. It’ll be announced in October, 23rd I believe,
at the banquet at the university. And all these jurors will be on campus. And then the
following year, the winner will come and receive their prize which in addition to the money
is a beautiful silver feather, it’s housed in a piece of wood from an Oklahoma native
tree that’s been carved and it’s a symbol of the quill, the writing quill, and also
the Native American culture in Oklahoma. So, if I can pronounce these names, because they
don’t roll right off the tongue. In alphabetical order, they are: Can Xue of China for fiction,
Caryl Churchill of the United Kingdom for drama/playwrighting, Carolyn Forche of the
United States for poetry and literary translation, Aminatta Forna of Scotland and Sierra Leone
for fiction, Ann-Marie MacDonald of Canada for fiction and drama/playwright, Guadalupe
Nettel of Mexico for fiction, Don Paterson of Scotland for poetry and drama/playwright,
Dubravka Ugresic Croatia and The Netherlands for fiction and essay writing, and Ghassan
Zaqtan, Palestine for poetry, fiction, and drama/playwright. And I just want to say what’s
notable this year, is that for the first time ever we have more women finalists than men.
(Applause) And that really is a reflection of the incredible power that women’s voices
are making across the world today from the USA to China and everywhere in between. So,
thank you all very much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *