American author Joyce Carol Oates was announced as the recipient of the 2019 Jerusalem Prize, which she will accept at this year’s Jerusalem International Book Forum, held in May.
The prize, which is worth $10,000, is awarded to writers whose body of work relates to the freedom of the individual in society, and has been awarded to acclaimed authors such as Bertrand Russell, Milan Kundera, Simone de Beauvoir, Arthur Miller, Ian McEwan and Susan Sontag.
Oates said she was deeply honored to win the prize, commenting that one of the great mysteries in her family life was the discovery that her paternal grandmother was Jewish, something established only after her death.
The secret was explored in her novel, “The Gravedigger’s Daughter,” she said.
Oates added that her grandmother’s Jewish identity is an entire dimension of her life that was inaccessible to her, and a first visit to Israel is likely to be “profound and life-changing.”
The Jerusalem International Book Forum will be held from May 12-15, alongside the International Writers Festival of Mishkenot Sha’ananim, May 12-16. Oates will take part at the two book events, which combined last year to become an annual festival known as the Jerusalem International Book Forum.
Oates, 81, is considered one of the leading writers in the US, an author of many works of fiction, poetry, non-fiction, essays and plays. Her bestselling titles include “We Were the Mulvaneys,” “Blonde,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and “The Accursed,” the fifth volume in Oates’ Gothic series, an exploration of race in early 20th century America.
The prize jury members wrote that Oates “continues to surprise her many readers with the elaborate narratives she creates, as well as the thematic variations of her works.”
“More than anything else,” wrote the judges, “Oates describes and throws light on the tension between the hidden anxieties and desires that permeate the human psyche, and the forces of family, society and culture that give them form – imprisoning them and sometimes releasing them. With a deep and profound psychological understanding, she confronts her heroes – as well as her readers – with the ways in which people deal with internal or external demons, and their struggle defines the boundaries of the human condition. But throughout this confrontation, even in its wildest manifestations, a constant line of grace and compassion is discernible.”