July 14, 2020
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Hilary Mantel will receive the 2016 Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement, and Andrea Wulf will receive the first James Wright Award for Nature Writing given jointly by the Review and the Nature Conservancy.
The awards will be presented at the Kenyon Review Awards Gala on Nov. 3 in New York City. The benefit dinner raises funds to support the literary journal and its summer programs for young writers.
Mantel’s most recent novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, each won the Man Booker Prize and have created a cultural phenomenon. In Wolf Hall, the English author casts a fictional account of the religious and political turmoil of Henry VIII’s reign through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, a lowborn man who became one of Henry’s closest advisors.
“Hilary Mantel writes with fierce energy and stunning vividness,” said David Lynn ’76 P’14, editor of the Review. “In the Thomas Cromwell novels she not only brings the reader into this complicated man’s mind; she plants us behind his eyes, and we see a rich, dangerous, seductive world in lyrical glory.”
Mantel is the first British writer and the first woman to win the Booker Prize more than once. She also has written memoirs and short stories, and in 2014 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her service to literature.
The Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement is given annually to honor careers of extraordinary literary achievement that have shaped the American literary landscape. Past winners have included Elie Wiesel H’82, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates and E.L. Doctorow ’52 H’76.
The James Wright Award for Nature Writing has been established by the Kenyon Review in association with the Nature Conservancy to honor a book of prose or poetry that exhibits literary insight into the human relationship with nature and the environment.
“Impending threats to the natural world and the dramatic reality of climate change must inevitably figure as major literary topics for coming generations,” Lynn said.
The inaugural Wright prize celebrates the 2015 book The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World. Andrea Wulf’s remarkable biography explores how the German naturalist from two centuries ago promoted the understanding that nature is a complex and interconnected global force. Her book also won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
“Andrea has produced a work of great intelligence and literary merit worthy of Humboldt’s remarkable life and times,” Lynn said. “We are pleased to recognize her achievement with this award named in honor of one of the 20th century’s great poets, who so often incorporated the natural world into his work.”
James Wright was born in Ohio in 1927 and came to Kenyon on the G.I. Bill to study with Review founder John Crowe Ransom H’57. He graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1952. He was elected a fellow of the Academy of American Poets in 1971, and the following year a collection of his poems won the Pulitzer Prize. He died in 1980.
Building on a tradition of excellence dating to 1939, the Kenyon Review has evolved from a distinguished literary magazine to a preeminent arts organization. Today the Review is devoted to nurturing, publishing and celebrating the best in contemporary writing.