Short story writer Lydia Davis wins major fiction prize

Wed May 22, 2013 5:32pm EDT
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By Ana Nicolaci da Costa

LONDON (Reuters) - American short story writer Lydia Davis won the fifth Man Booker International Prize for fiction on Wednesday for a body of work that includes some of the briefest tales ever published.

Davis, a professor of creative writing at the University of Albany, is best known for work that Observer critic William Skidelsky once said "redefines the meaning of brevity".

She is also an accomplished translator whose English versions of Marcel Proust's "Du Cote de Chez Swann" (Swann's Way) and Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary" helped earn her a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in France.

Davis said it was Proust's monumental work and famously long sentences that helped inspire her succinct writing style.

"Actually, when I was translating Proust was when I thought 'how short could a short story be?'" she told Reuters after receiving the 60,000 pound ($90,800) award in London. "I thought 'how little could you say and still have it work?'"

Some of Davis's longer stories may run to two, three, as many as nine pages, while others can be as brief as a paragraph or even just a sentence.

"Idea for a Short Documentary Film" in the 2009 "Collected Stories of Lydia Davis" reads:

"Representatives of different food products manufacturers try to open their own packaging."   Continued...

U.S. author Lydia Davis poses after winning the Man Booker Prize at the V&A Museum in London May 22, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor