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Sigrid Nunez’s ‘The Friend’ wins National Book Award

Nov 16,2018
NEW YORK - Sigrid Nunez’s ‘’The Friend,’’ a meditative novel about grief, books and, not least, a Great Dane named Apollo, has won the National Book Award for fiction. Other winners Wednesday night included Jeffrey C. Stewart’s ‘’The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke’’ for nonfiction and Justin Phillip Reed’s ‘’Indecency” for poetry.

During a ceremony and dinner benefit at Cipriani Wall Street when those honored had roots throughout the world, from Peru to Japan, Elizabeth Acevedo’s ‘’The Poet X’’ won for young people’s literature, and Yoko Tawada’s ‘’The Emissary,’’ translated by Margaret Mitsutani, won for translation, a newly revived category.

Nunez’s book tells of a woman mourning the death of her literary mentor and of her bond with the dog he left behind. It is a story, in part, of connection and distance. And Nunez, the author of such previous novels as ‘’Salvation City’’ and ‘’The Last of Her Kind,’’ noted in her acceptance speech that she didn’t seek community when she became a writer, but unexpectedly found it.

‘’I thought it was something I could do alone and hidden, in the privacy of my own room,’’ she said. ‘’How lucky to have discovered that writing books made the miraculous possible, to be removed from the world and be part of the world at the same time.

‘’And tonight how happy I am to feel a part of the world.’’

Nunez’s novel was chosen from among five fiction works set mostly in the present, and touching with lyricism and intensity upon everything from race and sexuality to climate change.

Finalist Jamel Brinkley, author of the story collection ‘’A Lucky Man,’’ told The Associated Press earlier on Wednesday that ‘’Our lives vibrate with uncertainty and mystery, with paths precariously taken or not taken, and they are often under threat by one thing or another. Many of our lives are under threat by design.’’

The book awards are presented by the nonprofit National Book Foundation. Judges, who include writers, critics and other members of the literary community, chose from more than 1,600 books submitted by publishers when considering the awards. Winners in the competitive categories each receive $10,000. In translation, the prize money is divided between the author and the translator.

AP