The Prize honors a work of fiction that addresses a vital contemporary issue
Contact: Caroline Tory
Program Manager | Aspen Words
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New York, NY, April 10, 2018 ––Tonight, Mohsin Hamid was awarded the inaugural $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize (AWLP) for his novel “Exit West.” The award, which is one of the largest literary prizes in the United States, was established by the Aspen Institute to honor a work of fiction “that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.”
“The book is my attempt to write against this growing anti-migrant sentiment,” said Hamid. “I wanted to portray migrants as heroes, not criminals. But more than that, I wanted to show that everyone is a migrant, even those who never move geographically, because moving through time, aging, is itself a form of migration.”
“Mohsin Hamid’s sentences are exquisite, capable of jaw-dropping surprise, elegant emotional exploration, and bone-chilling horror within a few clauses,” said the AWLP jury. “And by bringing the contemporary refugee crisis into countries that have mostly ignored the suffering beyond their borders, he forces us to ask ourselves how we are reacting to the crisis, and what potential we have to do better. In a world with 50 million displaced people, this is a novel that affects us all.”
In addition to “Exit West,” Mohsin Hamid is the internationally bestselling author of “Moth Smoke,” “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia,” and “Discontent and its Civilizations.” His award-winning novels have been adapted for the cinema, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and translated into more than thirty languages. He now resides in Lahore, his birthplace, after living for a number of years in New York and London.
The winner was announced live at an awards ceremony at The Morgan Library in New York City, and featured presentations by the new president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, Dan Porterfield and a conversation with some of the finalist authors, moderated by National Public Radio’s Michel Martin (NPR is a media partner on the award). Finalists included: Lesley Nneka Arimah (“What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky”), Zinzi Clemmons (“What We Lose”), Mohsin Hamid (“Exit West”) and Jesmyn Ward (“Sing, Unburied, Sing”).
A Livestream recording of the ceremony, finalists’ panel and acceptance speech is available here: http://www.aspenwords.org/event-details/literary-prize-awards-ceremony/
About the Aspen Words Literary Prize
Endowed in perpetuity by an anonymous donor, the $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize will be awarded annually to an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture. Open to authors of any nationality, the award is one of the largest literary prizes in the United States, and one of the few focused exclusively on fiction with a social impact. The inaugural award will be conferred for books published in English in the United States in 2017. Eligible works include novels or short story collections that address questions of violence, inequality, gender, the environment, immigration, religion, race or other social issues. The jury is chaired by National Book Award-winning author Phil Klay, along with Stephen Carter, Jessica Fullerton, Alondra Nelson and Akhil Sharma. In addition to a cash award, the winner of the AWLP will receive a unique trophy designed by sculptor Michael Lorsung of the Anderson Ranch Arts Center near Aspen, Colorado.
Aspen Words was founded in 1976 as a literary center based in Aspen, CO. A program of the Aspen Institute, its mission is to encourage writers, inspire readers, and connect people through the power of stories. For more information, visit www.aspenwords.org/.
The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, CO; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.
More information about the Aspen Words Literary Prize and the finalists is available at: http://www.aspenwords.org/programs/literary-prize/
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