The Nonino Prize for Literature

Founded in 1975, the Nonino Prize (Premio Nonino) started out as a way to recognize the achievement of local growers who were reviving and safeguarding indigenous grape varieties.

But today, it also recognizes literary achievement.

This year the prestigious award went to Chinese poet Yang Lian (pictured above, center, with Nobel Laureate for Literature, V.S. Naipaul, who presented him with the prize).

From the PEN International website:

Chinese poet and PEN International Board Member Yang Lian has been awarded the International Nonino 2012 literary prize, joining academics of the calibre of William Trevor, Edward Said and René Girard. The jury, presided over by the Nobel Laureate for Literature, V.S. Naipaul, praised the work of Yang Lian as an example of the heights of Chinese contemporary thought:

“Grounded to the millenary roots of his culture, he reinterprets it, reinventing and opening it to the tensions of contemporaneity, touching in his lines all the great questions of our existence and reminding us that ‘poetry is our only mother tongue’.”

Yang Lian’s poetry became well-known in the West in the 1980s after his sequence, ‘Noriland’ was criticized by the Chinese authorities during the ‘Anti-Spiritual Pollution’ movement against writing which contained themes and associations with Tibet. Living in exile since the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, Lian’s work has been translated into more than 20 languages and his ‘Where the Sea Stands Still: New Poems’ was the Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation in 1999. Lian’s latest writing, ‘Narrative Poetry’ was destroyed by the Chinese authorities because if its references to Tiananmen Square, but has been praised by critics, and the author continues to write and speak out as a highly individual voice in world literature. A PEN International Board member since 2008, Yang Lian has participated as an adviser of to ‘Free the Word’ festival events and was artistic director of the seminar series, ‘Unique Mother Tongue’. He continues to make an important contribution to the PEN International community.

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