New American literary award confers $1,500,000 in prizes

Inaugural recipients include Tom MacCarthy, James Salter and Zoë Wicomb.

The novelists Tom MacCarthy, James Salter and Zoë Wicomb are among a group of ten writers who have each been awarded $150,000 (£99,500) as part of the inaugural Donald Windham-Sandy M Campbell Literature Prizes.

The recipients were announced at Yale University on 4 March, but will not receive their awards until 10 September. The only criteria for selection is “outstanding literary achievement” and the prize is open to “English-language writers at all stages of their careers from any country in the world.” The full list of recipients can be found here.

The prize fund is drawn from the combined estates of Sandy M Campbell, an actor and critic who died in 1988, and Donald Windham, the novelist and memoirist who passed away in 2010. The prize will be administered by Yale University. Both wrote fiction and criticism, and acknowledged the freedom financial independence brought them throughout the course of their careers. Windham received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1960.

Windham’s novel, The Dog Star (1950), was reviewed favourably by John Richardson in the New Statesman, and was celebrated by Andre Gidé and Thomas Mann. In his introduction to Windham’s The Warm Country, E M Forster wrote, “To my mind, the most important thing about [Windham] is that he believes in warmth. He knows that human beings are not statues but contain flesh and blood and a heart.”

One recipient, the South African-born novelist Zoë Wicomb lives in Glasgow, and is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing in the School of Humanities. She spoke of her surprise upon hearing about the award:

For a minor writer like myself, this is a validation I would never have dreamt of. I am overwhelmed – and deeply grateful for this generous prize. It will keep me for several years – and it will speed up the writing too, since I can now afford to go away when the first draft proves difficult to produce in my own house.

James Salter’s long-awaited new novel, All That Is, will be published in April by Picador.

James Salter. Photograph: Lana Rys.

Philip Maughan is a freelance writer in Berlin and a former Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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Mare Nostrum: The NS poem

The NS poem.

Make sure you get some real open-water practice. The worst thing you can do is just jump in and start swimming

Guardian Weekend

An odyssey we’ve learnt to call it as night pitches them into obscurity, toy boats belly-up in bits, adverts for a better life. Troy is far behind on the Turkish coast, Greece and Rome and Germany and Dover somewhere in the unpronounceable future. Children and babies sleep on mounds of luggage; a man is shouting I wish we’d all died back there in the flames: pious Aeneas – refugee, widower – cursing god between retches. Everything is wrapped in black plastic bin-bags to keep out the sea and for the shopkeepers of Izmir life-jackets bring much-needed business. In a wetsuit you should feel slightly vacuum-packed but not restricted. Nobody knows if they will leave tonight or next week. Everyone here is waiting. Lift your head as little as possible, otherwise your hips sink. Think crocodile eyes.

Lesley Saunders has published six poetry collections. Her 2016 chapbook, Periplous, is published by Shearsman Books

 

This article first appeared in the 20 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, May's gamble

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