Robert Harrison wins prestigious book prize in Italy

Robert Harrison

Robert Harrison

ROBERT HARRISON, the Rosina Pierotti Professor in Italian Literature and chair of the Department of French and Italian, has received the most prestigious book prize in Italy for his Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition, published last year by the University of Chicago Press. The book earned the Premio Napoli, awarded in the "Foreign Literature" category. The prize, sponsored by the city of Naples, was founded in the early 1950s by the city's renowned mayor Achille Lauro. A "technical jury" of about 14 members, each a prominent person of letters, chooses the books that qualify for consideration. The jury then chooses three finalists in two main categories—Italian literature and foreign literature. The books are then distributed to more than 170 "reading committees" around the world, totaling about 1,700 people. Each casts a vote for the best book of the year in both categories. Past winners include Nobel laureate novelist Orhan Pamuk, American poets John Ashbery and Charles Simic, the Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina and Chicana writer Sandra Cisneros. Praising Gardens as "a personal essay as much as it is a work of scholarship," the Wall Street Journal said that Harrison "has planted his own garden of beautiful quotations and provocative speculation, and it is an absorbing and stimulating place to spend time."