Ananda Devi Wins the 2024 Neustadt Prize

October 24, 2023
by  WLT
A photograph of Ananda Devi
Ananda Devi, winner of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Photo by J. F. Paga, courtesy of Grasset

NORMAN, OKLA. (Tuesday, October 24, 2023) – World Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma’s award-winning magazine of international literature and culture, announced late Tuesday evening that Ananda Devi is the 28th laureate of the renowned Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Awarded in alternating years with the NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, the Neustadt Prize recognizes outstanding literary merit in literature worldwide.

Born in Mauritius, Ananda Devi has become one of the major literary voices of the Francophone world with over twenty-five books, including novels, collections of poetry, short stories, and essays. She has been translated into over a dozen languages and has received numerous literary prizes and decorations from Mauritius and also from France, with the title of Officier des Arts et des Lettres. In 2014 she received a major award from the Académie Française. The University of Silesia, Poland, conferred upon her a doctorate honoris causa. The Guardian recommended her novel Eve Out of Her Ruins, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman (Les Fugitives / Deep Vellum, 2016), among the hundred best contemporary novels in translation by women writers (see WLT, Nov. 2016).

Award-winning writer and filmmaker Fabienne Kanor nominated Devi for the Neustadt Prize. Kanor has published seven novels and was awarded the French Ministry of Culture’s Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. She devotes her career to studying race and gender in France and in the French West Indies and West African migrations in France.

Robert Con Davis-Undiano, World Literature Today’s executive director, notes that “it is long overdue for Ananda Devi to receive an international honor of this magnitude. She is deserving, and I hope that this honor will be a springboard to more recognition for her amazing work.”

According to jurors Sholeh Wolpé and Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, the last round of deliberations and voting was excruciatingly difficult, choosing among three iconic writers: Devi, Shahrnush Parsipur, and Maxine Hong Kingston. The jury wanted to award all three the prize and, in some way, consider all three writers deserving.

Highly respected within the literary community for its recognition of excellence, the Neustadt Prize is often referenced as the “American Nobel” for its reputation as a lead-up to the Swedish Academy’s annual selection. Any living author writing from anywhere in the world is eligible for the Neustadt Prize. The jury is composed of acclaimed international authors, and that fact helps shield the award from external pressure by booksellers, publishers, and others who may have interest in influencing the outcome.

The Neustadt Prize announcement was made live and via Zoom by Kathy Neustadt as part of the 2023 Neustadt Lit Fest.

The Neustadt Prize is the first international literary award of its scope to originate in the United States and is one of the very few international prizes for which poets, novelists and playwrights are equally eligible. Winners are awarded $50,000, a replica of an eagle feather cast in silver and a certificate. A generous endowment from the Neustadt family of Dallas, Denver and Boston ensures the award in perpetuity.