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After being banned from making films for 20 years, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi made This Is Not a Film while under house arrest. “We see him talking to his lawyer on the phone; watching TV; feeding his daughter’s pet iguana, Iggy; politely turning down invitations; and acting out a movie he wants to make about an isolated young woman,” writes Francine Prose, distinguished writer in residence, for the New York Review of Books. Tracing Panahi’s work through the decades, Prose draws attention to his intermixture of fiction and documentary, his dedication to the depiction of the lives of Iranian women, and his now regular appearances as a character in his own films, where he appears “genial, kindly, easily amused, remarkably easygoing—an unlikely candidate for an enemy of the state.” Now imprisoned as his newest film debuts in New York, sick with Covid and receiving “intentionally inadequate medical care,” Prose sees Panahi’s films as “a testament to the determination, perseverance, and courage required to keep making art, no matter what.”
Author Violet Kupersmith has received the Bard Fiction Prize for her first novel, Build Your House Around My Body (Random House 2021). Kupersmith’s residency at Bard College is for the fall 2023 semester, during which time she will continue her writing and meet informally with students. Kupersmith will give a public reading at Bard during her residency.
“Violet Kupersmith’s Build Your House Around My Body never ceases to surprise, as it intertwines disparate time periods, locations, and cultures, not to mention realities, and its sentences are worlds in themselves,” writes the Bard Fiction Prize committee. “She approaches her subject matter in fresh ways, and the novel’s otherworldly elements are expertly interwoven with the mundane, through an imagination truly rich and strange. This novel is sensual, it is visceral, it is outrageously comic. By turns, Kupersmith makes you squeamish with distaste, shivery with terror, giddy with laughter, awestruck by beauty, and warmed by unexpected tenderness. She always makes you marvel at her inventiveness, enticing you to solve the novel’s central mysteries, as she elicits the widest range of sensations possible. She is a writer of astonishing perspicacity and fluidity of language, and succumbing to her magic is a risk no reader should hesitate to take.”
“What a staggering honor to be in the company of all the literary luminaries who were previous winners of the award or have called Bard home at some point in their careers,” said Kupersmith. “I am just grateful beyond words to the prize committee for this recognition and for such an extraordinary gift. And I cannot wait to plant myself in this fertile intellectual environment next fall and grow something strange and new.”
Violet Kupersmith was born in central Pennsylvania in 1989 and later moved with her family to the Philadelphia suburbs. Her father is a white American and her mother is from Da Nang, Vietnam. Her mother’s family fled the country by boat following the fall of Saigon in 1975, and were resettled in Port Arthur, Texas. After graduating from Mount Holyoke College in 2011, Violet spent a year teaching English in Tra Vinh, Vietnam, on a Fulbright Fellowship. Between 2013 and 2015, she lived in Da Lat and Saigon, Vietnam. She was the 2015–2016 David T. K. Wong Fellow at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, and is the recipient of a 2022 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her short story collection The Frangipani Hotel was published by Spiegel & Grau in 2014. violetkupersmith.com
Bard College Assistant Professor of Written Arts Jenny Xie’s new poetry collection, The Rupture Tense, has been selected as a finalist for the 2022 National Book Award for poetry. Beginning with poems inspired by photojournalist Li Zhensheng’s rare images of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Jenny Xie’s The Rupture Tense recovers ancestral history through an investigation of state-sanctioned memory loss and intergenerational trauma. Xie’s debut collection of poems, Eye Level, was also selected as a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for poetry.
Winners will be announced on Wednesday, November 16 at the invitation-only 73rd National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. Two lifetime achievement awards will also be presented as part of the evening’s ceremony: Art Spiegelman will be recognized with the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by Bard College Professor in the Arts Neil Gaiman, and Tracie D. Hall will receive the Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.
“This is a memoir that gathers power through accretion,” writes Jennifer Szalai of Professor of Literature Hua Hsu’s Stay True for the New York Times. Calling Stay True “quietly wrenching,” and Hsu himself “a subtle writer, not a showy one,” Szalai hesitates to put the memoir too tidily into any one box. “To say that this book is about grief or coming-of-age doesn’t quite do it justice; nor is it mainly about being Asian American, even though there are glimmers of that too,” she writes. Instead, she sees Stay True as a patient exploration of a friendship cut short by tragedy, and the ways in which such bonds can linger on in our lives and writing. The memoir was also reviewed in the Washington Post, and Hsu was profiled on Vulture, as well as interviewed by CBS News, GQ, NPR, and others.
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