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Bard College Writer in Residence Teju Cole Wins 2012 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters

Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
 Image Credit: Teju Cole

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Bard College writer in residence Teju Cole has won the 2012 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for his debut novel Open City. The novel has been praised as “beautiful, subtle, and finally, original” by James Wood in the New Yorker, “a clear-eyed and mysterious achievement, a modern meditation that is both complex and utterly simple” by The Economist, and “a powerful and unnerving inquiry into the human soul” by Time. The novel was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and was selected as a New York Times Notable Book. Both Time and NPR named it one of the ten top novels of the year, and it has appeared on the best books list of more than 20 publications including the New Yorker, Atlantic, Economist, Newsweek, New Republic, and Los Angeles Times.

The Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters is a prize of $10,000 awarded to a young writer of considerable literary talent for a work published in 2011. The Academy’s literature prizes, totaling $160,000, honor both established and emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The Academy’s 250 members nominate candidates, and a rotating committee of writers selects winners. This year’s committee members were Paul Auster, Louis Begley, Robert Brustein, Louise Glück, Philip Levine, Alison Lurie, and Joy Williams. The awards will be presented in New York in May at the Academy’s annual ceremonial. For more information about the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, please visit

The Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award is a prize of $10,000 for a distinguished first book of fiction. “Written in a deceptively quiet voice, Teju Cole’s remarkable and penetrating debut novel achieves what Kafka said art should; it chops the frozen sea within us,” said novelist and Hemingway Foundation/PEN award judge Andre Dubus III. In addition to Dubus, writers Sigrid Nunez and Edith Pearlman were judges for this year’s Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Patrick Hemingway, the son of Nobel Prize–winning writer Ernest Hemingway, will present the prestigious literary award on Sunday, April 1, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. For more information about the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, please visit

Teju Cole is a writer, art historian, and street photographer. Born in the United States in 1975 to Nigerian parents, he was raised in Nigeria and currently lives in Brooklyn. Besides Open City (Random House, 2011), Cole is the author of a novella, Every Day Is for the Thief (Cassava Republic Press, 2007). His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Qarrtsiluni, Chimurenga, New Yorker, Transition, Tin House, and A Public Space, among other publications. He is currently at work on Water Has No Enemy, a nonfiction narrative of Lagos, and on Small Fates. He received his B.A. in studio art and art history from Kalamazoo College in Michigan; his M.A. in African art history from the University of London; and his M.Phil. in 16th-century northern European visual culture from Columbia University, where he is working on his Ph.D. He has taught art history and literature at Hofstra University, New York University, and Columbia University. He has received a Rudolf Wittkower Fellowship and Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities (awarded by the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation), and has been interviewed for the documentary film, Wole Soyinka: Child of the Forest.




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This event was last updated on 03-16-2012