Hemon named 2020 Dos Passos Prize winner

Published 6:00 am Friday, October 16, 2020

Aleksandar Hemon, a fiction and nonfiction writer, is the 2020 winner of the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature — a premier literary award given annually by Longwood University.

Aleksandar Hemon

Hemon is known for his short stories and novels that explore issues of exile, identity and home through characters drawn from his own experience with displacement.

His works often deal with the Yugoslav Wars, his native Bosnia or Chicago, which became his adopted hometown when war broke out in his home country and he was granted status as a political refugee in the U.S.

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Hemon’s best-known novels are “Nowhere Man” (2002) and “The Lazarus Project” (2008). More recently, he published “My Parents: An Introduction/This Does Not Belong to You,” his second work of nonfiction, in 2019.

He also co-wrote the script, alongside David Mitchell and Lana Wachowski, for the upcoming “The Matrix 4” movie, which is slated to be released in late 2021.

The John Dos Passos Prize for Literature is the oldest literary award given by a Virginia college or university. It honors an underappreciated writer whose work offers incisive, original commentary on American themes, experiments with form and encompasses a range of human experiences.

“To read Hemon is to survive a strike of lightning,” Brandon Haffner said, who is an assistant professor of English at Longwood and chair of the Dos Passos Prize committee. “It is to be devastated and remade. His writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, hasn’t merely stuck with me; it has changed me, challenged me to see the world anew.”

Hemon, currently a professor of creative writing at Princeton University, was chosen from a shortlist of six finalists nominated by members of the Dos Passos Prize jury. The winner receives an honorarium and traditionally gives a reading on Longwood’s campus in the spring. The prize presentation and reading will be held virtually this spring at a date to be announced later.

Previous Dos Passos Prize winners include American literature icons such as Annie Proulx (1997), Ernest J. Gaines (1993), Shelby Foote (1988) and Tom Wolfe (1984), as well as Colson Whitehead (2012), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, and Ruth Ozeki (2014), winner of the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award for Foreign Literature.