NORMAN — The annual Neustadt Festival of International Literature and Culture closed with an evening banquet featuring literature, Indian culture and impromptu song Friday evening on the University of Oklahoma campus.
Honoring Indian-Canadian novelist Rohinton Mistry, the banquet finale was the presentation of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, a $50,000 prize awarded by an international jury and funded by the University of Oklahoma, the Neustadt family and World Literature Today magazine.
“I have looked at the names of Neustadt Laureates, judges and nominees from years past and I’m not convinced ... I’m not convinced that I belong among them, but the esteemed 2012 jurors have made their choice, and who am I to argue with them,” Misty said, joking during his acceptance remarks.
In addition to thanking the jurors and the Neustadt family for awarding him the prize, Mistry read an excerpt from his 2002 novel, “Family Matters,” providing the guests with an endearing and bittersweet juxtaposition of a elderly man’s inner monologue with his daughter’s nagging affection.
“Though I’ve never visited Oklahoma, it has always held a special place in my heart because of the Broadway musical and its significance in my childhood,” Mistry said. Singing verses of his favorite songs, Mistry then delved into a more somber examination of the musical’s failure to mention Native Americans and the significance of this omission in the context of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s other racially-conscious musicals.
“I am grateful to the Neustadt Prize for making me think about difficult matters and bringing me full circle to the Oklahoma that I first encountered in my Bombay childhood,” Mistry said.
The Neustadt Prize is hailed by many as the “American Nobel” because of the high number of honorees who have won the Nobel Prize in Literature following their selection as Neustadt laureates. Mistry is the 22nd recipient of the Neustadt Prize.