Professor Valeria Luiselli on Opening the door to translated works for the 2022 O. Henry Prize

Valeria Luiselli. Photo by Alfredo Pelcastre

When Valeria Luiselli, Sadie Samuelson Levy Professor of Languages ​​and Literature at Bard College, was asked to edit the 2022 iteration of the O. Henry Awards, a “fundamental thing” had changed: The award was now open to any writer, not just Americans”. “That alone was reason enough for me to accept,” writes Luiselli in Poets and writers. The rule had “accumulated a number of absurd consequences”, she writes, including the exclusion of authors who “had lived, sometimes all their lives, in the United States” but did not have a US birth certificate. This barrier, she argues, was not only exclusive, but detrimental to literary culture: “To impose written rules on literature in a government office, in a nation’s obscure and labyrinthine immigration system, is not only absurd, but simply contrary to the very nature of Literature.” The best news of 2022: the winners of the O. Henry Prize, edited by Luiselli, eventually included 10 stories in translation out of a total of 20 selected works. Their inclusion is a reflection of their excellence, writes Luiselli, serving as recognition “of a moment when we begin to open the doors and windows of this locked old house, letting in new light and air to stir us powerfully in motion.”

Publication date : 23-08-2022

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