winner of the
2014 NEUSTADT PRIZE
On Friday, Nov. 1, in Norman, Oklahoma, Mozambican novelist Mia Couto was awarded the 2014 Neustadt Prize for Literature. Following just five months after the €100,000 Camões Prize for Literature, which he received in May of 2013, the Neustadt marks the second major lifetime achievement award that Couto has received this year.
The $50,000 prize is sponsored by the University of Oklahoma, the Neustadt family, and World Literature Today (WLT), the university’s award-winning magazine of international literature and culture. Chosen biennially by a jury of seven or more members, the prize, which is the first international award of its scope to originate in America, honours an author for overall literary accomplishment. Because 30 of the Neustadt’s winners, nominees and jurors have also won the Nobel Prize, it has been dubbed “the American Nobel,” and authors associated with both include Pablo Neruda, Gabriel García Márquez, Orhan Pamuk, Mo Yan, and Alice Munro.
Gabriella Ghermandi, who nominated Mr. Couto for the Neustadt, has praised him as “an author who addresses not just his country but the entire world, all human beings.” WLT executive director Robert Con Davis-Undiano describes Couto’s project as an attempt “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.”
Other contenders for this year’s prize included Haruki Murakami, César Aira, and Edward P. Jones.
Couto is the first Mozambican author to receive the Neustadt prize. “Mozambique is a very young country,” Couto commented recently in an interview with PolicyMic: “an African country trying to deny the stereotypes of what is ‘typically’ African, which is normally associated with negative and victimist values.” He observes that the prize announcement comes as happy news in an otherwise sad time for his nation, which once more is confronting the prospect of civil war.
Couto, whose most well-known work is the novel Sleepwalking Land (1992), is the author of over 25 volumes of poetry, fiction, essays, short stories, and plays.
His most recent work to appear in English is The Tuner of Silences (Biblioasis 2013), translated by David Brookshaw.
For more information about Mia Couto and The Tuner of Silences, please read on. You may also listen to a live stage interview, conducted by Eleanor Wachtel of CBC Radio's Writers and Company, as it airs this Sunday June 2nd on CBC Radio One (3 p.m. ET/AT, 3:30 NT, 5 p.m. CT/MT/PT).
For interviews with Mia Couto or reviews of his work, please visit:
PolicyMic: A Q&A with Mia Couto
The Paris Review Daily: “We Are Made of Memories”: Mia Couto in Conversation with Scott Esposito
The New Inquiry: “Feinting Spells,” by Aaron Bady
Warscapes: An Excerpt from The Tuner of Silences, Introduced by David Brookshaw
The Coffin Factory: Review
Words Without Borders: Review
Or visit the Biblioasis International Translation Series Website.
PRAISE FOR THE TUNER OF SILENCES
"David Brookshaw's lyrical translation of Mia Couto's Portuguese lull[s] us into a hypnotized semi-acceptance of [an] impossible universe … Couto's narrative tone, at once deadpan and beguiling, and his virtuoso management of time, place him alongside the best Latin American magic realists." —Times Literary Supplement
"A sad novel of poetic brilliance—haunting in its human landscape."— The Independent
"Mia Couto, long regarded as one of the leading writers in Mozambique, has now been recognized as one of the greatest living writers in the Portuguese language … The Tuner of Silences cracks open a welcoming window onto a vast world of literary pleasures that has for too long remained under the radar in the English-speaking world."—Philip Graham, The Millions
ABOUT MIA COUTO
Mia Couto, an environmental biologist from Mozambique, is the author of 25 books of fiction, essays and poems in his native Portuguese. Couto’s novels and short story collections have been translated into 20 languages. Two of his novels have been made into feature films. His work has been awarded important literary prizes in Mozambique, South Africa, Portugal, Italy and Brazil. His books have been bestsellers in Africa, Europe and Latin America. Six of Couto’s books have been translated into English in the United Kingdom: two short story collections by Heinemann and four novels by Serpent’s Tail. The Tuner of Silences is his first novel to be published in North America.
Biblioasis is a literary press based in Windsor, Ontario. Since 2004 we have been publishing the best in Canadian fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and literature in translation. For more information please consult our website: www.biblioasis.com.