New York-based British writer Hari Kunzru takes the 2024 Chowdhury Prize for Literature. (Photo: Clayton Cubitt.)

Novelist Hari Kunzru wins 2024 Chowdhury Prize for Literature

USC Dornsife’s Department of English, with the support of the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation, will award the $20,000 prize during a gala at USC on April 18.
ByUSC Dornsife News

Hari Kunzru, a British novelist in New York and esteemed columnist for Harper’s Magazine, has been named the winner of the 2024 Chowdhury Prize in Literature, presented by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences with the support of the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Foundation.

Kunzru’s short stories and six novels, including White Tears (Knopf, 2017), Gods Without Men (Vintage Contemporaries, 2011), and My Revolutions (Dutton Adult, 2007), span diverse genres and themes, from the aftermath of 1960s radicalism to the mythologies of the Mojave. The judges note that Kunzru’s works navigate the vast expanse of politics and culture through an acutely literary lens.

“The defining feature of Hari Kunzru’s writing is a kind of intellectual and emotional restlessness,” said Chowdhury Prize administrator David Ulin, professor of English at USC Dornsife. He notes that Kunzru’s characters are in a profound search for meaning.

“If literature is a meaning-making enterprise,” said Ulin, “then Kunzru continually reminds us that this is a subjective process, in which one person’s paradise may well become another’s inferno. His books are rigorous and beautiful.”

Subir and Malini Chowdhury added, “He is a writer of astonishing engagement, one who embodies the idea of literature as a public art. His work exemplifies the focus and commitment the prize seeks to honor.”

The award, which includes a $20,000 prize, will be presented at a gala on USC’s University Park Campus on April 18.

Awarded annually to authors with a body of work behind them, but also with significant future potential, the Chowdhury Prize is intended to encourage and help writers forge into new territories. There is no application process for the award and it’s the only one of its kind on the West Coast.

“The work of poets and writers is integral to understanding our collective humanity,” said Dana Johnson, chair of the USC Dornsife Department of English and Florence R. Scott Professor of English. “So, it’s a privilege for USC, and for the English department in particular, to be able to present this award.”

The previous winners of the Chowdhury Prize are Victoria Chang (2023) and Christos Ikonomou (2022).

Chowdhury Prize judges are Ulin, Nicole Terez Dutton, Maggie Nelson, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Claudia Rankine.