Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shteyngart Wins UK Comic Lit Prize

Gary Shteyngart has just been announced as the winner of this year's Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, the first time an American author has won the prize. Shteyngart, who was born in Leningrad and emigrated with his family to the US in 1979, won the prize for his novel Super Sad True Love Story, published last year in hardcover and just recently out in paperback.

The satiric novel is set in a post-literate, consumption-obsessed, hypersexualized America. The main character, Lenny Abramov, is a 39-year-old Jewish New Yorker who works as a Life Lovers Outreach Coordinator for a multinational corporation that sells immortality to High Net Worth Individuals.

Shteyngart is the author of two previous novels, The Russian Debutante's Handbook, which won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, and Absurdistan. He has been named one of Granta's Best Young Novelists and the New Yorker's Best Writers Under 40. He received his degree in politics from Oberlin College in Ohio and an MFA in Creative Writing from Hunter College of the City University of New York. He currently teaches writing at Columbia University.

The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, the UK's only literary award for comic writing, was established in 2000 and named in honor of the great writer PG Wodehouse. The prize is sponsored by Champagne Bollinger, established in 1829 and still independently owned and run. (We love independent almost as much as we love champagne!).

Shteyngart will be presented with the award, as well as  a jeroboam [FYI: a jeroboam is a very big bottle, which holds the equivalent of four bottles of champagne -- very tasty, but challenging to pour] of Bollinger Special Cuvée, a case of Bollinger La Grande Année and a set of the Everyman Wodehouse collection, plus a locally bred Gloucestershire Old Spot pig, at Hay Festival on 4th June. (Although it seems to be up for debate whether he actually receives the pig or that a pig is just named in his honor. Either way, it's clearly a big deal.)

The other finalists for this year's prize were Manu Joseph for Serious Man, India Knight for Comfort and Joy, Sam Leith for The Coincidence Engine, and Catherine O'Flynn for The News Where You Are. Last year's winner was Ian McEwan for his novel Solar. Previous winners are Will Self, Marina Lewycka, Jasper Fforde, DBC Pierre, Michael Frayn, Jonathan Coe, and Howard Jacobson.

Here is an interview of Shteyngart by Jon Meacham on the PBS show Need to Know:

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