Laura Shannon Prize Winner

Thompson Birth Certificate 400x

Publisher: Cornell University Press

Publication Year: 2013

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Birth Certificate: The Story of Danilo Kiš

by Mark Thompson

2016 Award in Humanities

Jury Statement

Mark Thompson’s Birth Certificate is an eloquent biography of a major Yugoslav writer too little-known in the Anglophone world. Impressive, eccentric, at times controversial, Danilo Kiš (1935-1989) belonged to many cultures and traditions. He is best-known for his playfulness with literary form. Thompson traces his career with an eye toward Kiš’s literary significance. What is remarkable about this biography is how skillfully it relates literary significance to shifts in the history of central Europe. The biography is itself a formal tour de force, combining journal fragments, photographs, and interviews with Thompson’s own beautifully-written prose. Richly informative, Birth Certificate is a brilliant case for Kiš’s importance in cultural history. As Thompson concludes: “From Kosovo’s ethnic tyranny to Diderot’s enlightenment and beyond—to Joyce, Borges, and a reunited Europe—is almost too far to measure; but it is there, along that spectrum, that Kiš’s writing shines most brightly.” This book illuminates that brightness, and we hope that this imaginatively-printed volume will introduce more readers to this complex figure.

Lecture: “Socrates in Bosnia”

Final Jury

Karl Ameriks
McMahon-Hank Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus
University of Notre Dame

John E. Hare
Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology
Yale Divinity School, Yale University

Anne Lake Prescott
Senior Scholar and Emerita Helen Goodhart Altschul Professor of English
Barnard College, Columbia University

Ingrid Rowland
Professor of Architecture
University of Notre Dame Rome Global Gateway, University of Notre Dame

Roger Scruton
Senior Fellow, Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.