National Book Award Nominees Announced
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 04:55 PM
Finalists for the 2011 National Book Awards were announced today. The nominees include a first-time novelist and the recently deceased biographer of Malcolm X.
Twenty-five-year-old Balkan born Téa Obreht was nominated in the Fiction category for her first novel, The Tiger's Wife. Earlier this summer Obreht also became the youngest person ever to win the Orange Prize, given every year to the best English-language novel by a woman. When Kurt Andersen spoke with her last June, she said she wasn’t letting the success get to her head: “In Balkan culture, you find 5 bucks on the floor, next thing you know you're being run over by a train.”
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern earned Stephen Greenblatt a nomination in the Nonfiction category. The book traces how an epic poem written more than 2,000 years predicted modern scientific discoveries and philosophical concepts — such as Darwin’s theory of evolution and atheism. Greenblatt told Kurt that when it was uncovered during the 15th century, the poem caused quite a stir: "This is the actual beating heart of the Renaissance at its most radical. Something coming back across the huge gap of time and changing the course of human spirit and human thought."
The late Columbia University historian and civil rights scholar Manning Marable was nominated for his final book, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. Published just three days after Marable's death, the book presents a more complex, more complete portrait of Malcolm X, challenging many of the “gangster” stories that fill the early chapters of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. One of his discoveries involved an unlikely (non-religious) convert to Malcolm X’s message:
"I discovered…the police officer who spent a year of his life illegally wire-tapping Malcolm X. And I got his story, and it was fascinating, because Malcolm converted a white cop from New York in the ‘60s simply by listening to the wire-taps. And he said 'This guy is not the enemy, he's a good guy.'"
Listen to their full conversation here:
The award winners will be announced November 16, 2011.