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‘Exit West’ wins inaugural Aspen Words Literary Prize

In the US, Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (Hamish Hamilton), about the turbulent lives of refugees, has won the inaugural US$35,000 (A$45,100) Aspen Words Literary Prize, reports NPR.

Exit West is a novel about migration and how the world is changing—and could change—and how we are all migrants, and how we can find an optimistic future together,’ said Hamid in his acceptance speech for the prize. ‘I’m really grateful to be honoured by this prize in particular, which is a prize that looks to books to have an impact on the world.’

Prize judge Phil Klay said he was stunned by the ‘exquisite sentences’ that ‘build up this incredible portrait of two lovers in a war zone’. ‘He forces us to ask how we would react, and what kind of potential there is for reactionary violence within our own societies. And he also hints at possibilities for doing better. And I think that that is something vital right now,’ said Klay.

The five finalists included Lesley Nneka Arimah’s short story collection What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky (Headline), Samrat Upadhyay’s collection Mad Country (Soho Press), Jesmyn Ward’s novel Sing, Unburied, Sing (Bloomsbury) and Zinzi Clemmons’ collection What We Lose (HarperCollins).

The prize is awarded to an ‘influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture’. Founded by nonprofit Colorado literary centre Aspen Words, the award aims to boost writers who grapple with ‘the messiness of reality and human experience’.

For more information on the prize and the shortlisted works, see the Aspen Words website.


Category: Awards International news