Women Sweep Literature Prizes
Is it an accident, the judging panels, a mini-trend or are the tides turning? With the sweep of this year's literary awards, all eyes are on the women who won. Judges' comments are noting the detail, vividness and emotional power of their writing.
Nobel Prize in Literature:
The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2009 is awarded to the German author Herta Müller "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed".
Herta Müller lived and wrote in Romania until 1987, when she emigrated to Germany to escape the censorship of the Communist Ceauşescu's dictatorship. Her first publication, a collection of short stories called Niederungen, was censored by the Romanian government for its depictions of life in a small German-speaking village in Romania and the corruption and repression of the Romanian government. It was later smuggled into Germany. Most of her published works are in German, but those translated into English include The Land of Green Plums and, most recently, The Appointment.
Man Booker Prize in Fiction:
Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall
Hilary Mantel has given us a thoroughly modern novel set in the 16th century. Wolf Hall has a vast narrative sweep that gleams on every page with luminous and mesmerising detail.
It probes the mysteries of power by examining and describing the meticulous dealings in Henry VIII's court, revealing in thrilling prose how politics and history is made by men and women.
English Hilary Mantel has written nine novels previous to Wolf Hall and a memoir. She is a book reviewer in addition to an author, and writes for The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and The London Review of Books.
Pulitzer Prize in Fiction:
Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge
For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
Awarded to "Olive Kitteridge," by Elizabeth Strout (Random House), a collection of 13 short stories set in small-town Maine that packs a cumulative emotional wallop, bound together by polished prose and by Olive, the title character, blunt, flawed and fascinating.
Olive Kitteridge is Elizabeth Strout's third book, following Abide With Me and Amy and Isabelle, which won an LA Times Award. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker and O: The Oprah Magazine, and she has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize.
Man Booker International Prize:
Alice Munro is mostly known as a short story writer and yet she brings as much depth, wisdom and precision to every story as most novelists bring to a lifetime of novels. To read Alice Munro is to learn something every time that you never thought of before.
Alice Munro is an incredibly prolific short story writer. Her 15th book, Too Much Happiness, is due out in November 2009. She lives in Canada and has received numerous Canadian literature awards, including two Giller Prizes, in addition to awards from outside of Canada, including the National Book Critics Circle Award in the U.S. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Saturday Night, and The Paris Review, among others.
LA Times Book Prize in Fiction and The Orange Prize:
Marilynne Robinson, Home
This year's Orange Prize winner has a luminous quality to it that has drawn all of the judges to a unanimous decision. The profound nature of the writing stood out, as has the ability of writer to draw the reader into a world of hope expectation, misunderstanding, love and kindness.
Home is Marilynne Robinson's third novel, following Housekeeping and Gilead, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005. She has also written two works of non-fiction, Mother Country and The Death of Adam. She has also written for Harper's, The New York Times Book Review, and The Paris Review. She lives in Idaho and teaches at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.