By Bunmi Ishola
Transcript Staff Writer
After recently having the honor of hosting other great dignitaries, such as the President of Liberia, the University of Oklahoma welcomed Nicaraguan/Salvadoran writer Claribel Alegría, who was awarded the 2006 Neustadt International Prize for Literature Friday evening.
Alegría was selected by an international jury as the laureate of the prize, which is sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and World Literature Today, the university’s literary and cultural magazine.
The Neustadt Prize is awarded every two years and is the only international literary award from the United States in which poets, playwrights and novelists are given equal consideration.
Robert Con Davis-Undiano, executive director of World Literature Today and Neustadt professor, said the Neustadt Prize for Literature is “second only to the Nobel in importance.”
Alegría was born in Estelí, Nicaragua, but from early childhood lived in the Santa Ana region of western El Salvador, therefore claiming both countries.
She is the 19th recipient of the Neustadt Prize, which began in 1970, and the third woman to win the award. Alegría’s poetry and fiction have gained her wide recognition for her work on “historical testimony” in Latin America. Her collection of poetry “Sobrevivo” received Cuba’s Casa de las Américas Prize and “Saudade/Sorrow” won the Independent Publisher Book Award for Poetry in 2000. She was honored by the Nicaraguan Academy of Language for her contribution to Central American culture and acknowledged by the Nicaraguan Writers Center for her valuable contribution to Nicaraguan Literature.
“Claribel Alegría is one of the most courageous and revered Latin American writers of the past 50 years,” said Con Davis-Undiano. “We are all so in love with her. We probably shouldn’t have favorites, but I think she may be our favorite [laureate].”
A two-day symposium in her honor was held all day Thursday and Friday, which included Alegría giving a public talk and reading of her work Friday morning.
By Bunmi Ishola
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