“Optimistic utopian” Pierre Joris wins Lux literature prize


Pierre Joris (c.) performing with Nicole Payrafitte and Pascal Delalée. Photo: MCULT 

New York-based author Pierre Joris was finally able to travel to the grand duchy this week to pick up the 2020 Prix Batty Weber, a literature award given to Luxembourg authors in recognition of their oeuvre. 

Born in 1946, Joris grew up in Ettelbruck. He studied medicine for one year in Paris before switching to English literature at Bard College in New York in 1969. He later completed a degree as a translator at the University of Essex in the UK.

He earned a PhD in comparative literature from the State University of New York in Binghamton and taught English literature at the State University of New York in Albany between 1992 and 2013.

A jury called Joris “a crossover artist, a theorist of nomad art, a wordsmith and an optimistic utopian, who believes in the magic of language and who invigorates it--in times of rising nationalisms, Joris responds to insularity with the affirmation of mutual respect and dialogue.”

The jury included a mix of authors, journalists and academics (Vesna Andonovic, Claude D. Conter, Anne Diderich, Fabienne Gilbertz, Frank Hoffmann, Luc Marteling and Sébastian Thiltges).

Joris, together with his wife--artist Nicole Payrafitte--and violinist Pascal Delalée, performed segments of his works during the ceremony hosted on 1 June at the national literature centre in Mersch.

“All writing, all poetry is a trek toward language, our other, the station, the staying in our passage through time. I am a space traveller trying to write myself into an oasis corner, an amen corner as I circumambulate the polis of my life span, stopping here and there,” Joris said.

The Batty Weber prize was founded in 1987 and is awarded every three years to a Luxembourg author in recognition of their contribution to Luxembourg literature. It comes with a grant of €10,000. Weber was a Luxembourg journalist and author, born in 1860 and died in 1940.