“Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights,” written by Marina Warner, professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex, and published by Harvard University Press, is the winner of the 2013 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin.
The $30,000 award — the largest annual cash prize in English-language literary criticism — is administered for the Truman Capote Estate by the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Warner will accept the award this fall in a public event at the UI that will include remarks on the literary topic of her choosing. Warner is a writer of fiction, criticism and history. Her works include novels and short stories as well as studies of art, myths, symbols and fairy tales.
The book was chosen by an international panel of prominent critics and writers — Terry Castle, Garrett Stewart, Michael Wood, John Kerrigan, Elaine Scarry and Joyce Carol Oates — each of whom nominated two books. Books of general literary criticism in English, published during the last four years, are eligible for nomination. After reading all the nominated books, each critic ranked the nominees.
“I am very happy to receive this award. It wasn’t on my radar that I would be considered; the fact that it was completely unexpected provides additional pleasure,” Warner says. “I am familiar with the award, as previous honorees are people I know, including last year’s recipient, Elaine Showalter. I am honored and humbled by this accolade.”
“Stranger Magic” is a dazzling history of magical thinking, exploring the power of The Arabian Nights and its impact in the West, and retelling some of its wondrous tales. Magic is not simply a matter of the occult arts, but a whole way of thinking, of dreaming the impossible.
In a review in “The Guardian,” Robin Yassin-Kassab says, “‘Stranger Magic’ is a labor of love, an academic work which often reads like a fireside conversation. It’s encyclopedic, a book to be savored in slices, yet (inevitably) it’s easy to think of further potential topics — giants, for instance, or dervishes, or magical realism from the Arabs via La Mancha to the Latin American Boom. But Warner’s conclusion reminds us of her organizing principle: the uses of enchantment to open new possibilities of thought and sympathy, indeed the necessity of magic, especially in a self-consciously ‘rational’ and secular world.”