David Vann, University
of San Francisco
associate professor of creative writing, has been named the winner of the 2010 Prix
Medicis for foreign writers, often compared to the Pulitzer Prize in
Le Prix Medicis etranger is one of two major French literary
awards for foreigners. Vann was honored for is novella Sukkwan Island, which was published in the U.S. and U.K. as part of
the book Legend of a Suicide. The
winner of a growing list of literary awards, Legend of a Suicide is set in Vann’s native Alaska and comprised of Sukkwan
Island and a number of related short
stories that were inspired by his father’s suicide when Vann was 13.
“I didn’t think there was any
chance, whatsoever,” Vann said of winning the prize. “I was really shocked at
It’s been a thrill attending the book launches in foreign
countries and accepting awards, said Vann, who teaches fiction, nonfiction, and
linguistics in USF’s MFA in writing program. It’s rare for a first book,
especially one from a small publishing house like Legend of a Suicide, to win a Prix Medicis etranger. Just eight other
Americans have won a Prix Medicis, which was first awarded in 1958. Among them
are Philip Roth, Paul Auster, John Hawkes, and Dave Eggers.
Vann’s latest work and his first novel, Caribou Island, is also set in the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness on
the Kenai Peninsula. Caribou Island
is the story of an unraveling marriage filled with regret. It hits bookstore
shelves in January.