PEN/Nabokov award relaunched to promote ‘global voices’ in US
A new $50,000 (£38,500) literary prize for international authors, intended to recognise the “spirit of Vladimir Nabokov” and described as “a welcome counterbalance to rampant xenophobia and increasingly jingoistic provincialism”, is being launched in the US.
The PEN/Nabokov award, supported by the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation, replaces another award with the same name but a different remit. It will go to a writer born or residing outside the US, either writing in or translated into English to honour “an outstanding body of work over a sustained career”. PEN America said on Thursday that the prize’s judges would be looking for a writer in the field of nonfiction, poetry, drama or fiction whose body of work “evoke[s] to some measure Nabokov’s brilliant versatility and commitment to literature as a search for the deepest truth and the highest pleasure”.
The PEN/Nabokov prize was previously worth $20,000, and took a less international focus, looking for a “living author whose body of work, either written in or translated into English, is of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship”. Its winners included Philip Roth, Mario Vargas Llosa and Cynthia Ozick, but it has not been awarded since 2008.
The new version of the award is the first PEN America prize to specifically focus on international writers, said PEN America president Andrew Solomon.
“At a time when there is too little dialogue between nations, it will draw attention to outstanding global voices that may be unknown to most US readers,” said Solomon. “It is a welcome counterbalance to rampant xenophobia and increasingly jingoistic provincialism. In renewing our close collaboration with the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation, PEN America pays tribute to the cross-cultural legacy of one of the most revered multinational PEN members, a master of storytelling: Vladimir Nabokov.”
Andrew Wylie, the literary agent who heads the Nabokov foundation, said of the prize’s new focus: “We wanted to differentiate the PEN/Nabokov award from other PEN awards, and in doing so fill a need. The international influence of Nabokov’s writings seemed to justify it.”
Five international writers will select the winner of the annual prize, with the award not open to public nominations. The first winner will be announced in February next year, at the PEN America literary awards ceremony in New York.