Annal: 1983 National Book Award for Biography

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1983.

Book:Isak Dinesen

Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller

Judith Thurman

With exceptional grace, Judith Thurman’s classic work explores Isak Dinesen’s life—her privileged but unhappy childhood in Denmark, her marriage to Baron Blixen and their immigration to Africa on the eve of World War I, and her passionate affair with Denys Finch Hatton. Until the appearance of this book, the life and art of Dinesen have been—as Dinesen herself wrote of two lovers in a tale—“a pair of locked caskets, each containing the key to the other.” Judith Thurman has provided the master key to them both.

Book:Nathaniel Hawthorne in His Times

Nathaniel Hawthorne in His Times

James R. Mellow

James R. Mellow’s biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne places this great American writer in the midst of the literary and cultural turmoil of the early Republic. Mellow draws on Hawthorne’s letters and notebooks, as well as on perceptive readings of his fiction, in recreating the details of Hawthorne’s life: the long apprenticeship of the reclusive young author, his romantic courtship of Sophia Peabody, and his travels to Europe at the height of his literary career.

More fascinating still is Mellow’s portrayal of Hawthorne’s stimulating, complicated relationships with his fellow pioneers in the creation of a uniquely American literature—Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Louisa May Alcott. Hawthorne was also a life-long friend of President Franklin Pierce, and Mellow follows the fortunes of Hawthorne’s political career, which brought the writer into contact with the era’s great politicians—Daniel…[more]

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