Lydia Davis

1998 Lannan Literary Award for Fiction

photo of Lydia Davis

Lydia Davis has been called “an American virtuoso of the short story form” (Salon.com) and “one of the quiet giants of American fiction” (Los Angeles Times Book Review). She has published seven collections including Sketches for a Life of Wassily (1981), Almost No Memory (2001), Samuel Johnson is Indignant (2002), Varieties of Disturbance (2007), and The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis (2009), as well as a novel, End of the Story. She was born in 1947 and after graduating from Barnard worked as a translator before turning to fiction. Ms. Davis is a celebrated translator of French literature including works by Jean-Paul Sartre, Flaubert, and Maurice Blanchot, as well as biographies of Marie Curie and Alexis de Tocqueville, with her most recent translation being a much-lauded Madam Bovary (2010).

Ms. Davis’s honors include being a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award for Varieties of Disturbances, a Whiting Award, a Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, a MacArthur Fellowship, and in 2005 she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  She has been named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government for her fiction and translations.  She lives in upstate New York.

Head, Heart
Heart weeps.
Head tries to help heart.
Head tells heart how it is, again:
You will lose the ones you love.  They will all go.  But
    even the earth will go, someday.
Heart feels better, then.
But the words of head do not remain long in the ears of
    heart.
Heart is so new to this.
I want them back, says heart.
Head is all heart has.
Help, head.  Help heart.
A Man from Her Past
I think mother is flirting with a man from her past who is not Father. I say to myself: Mother ought not to have improper relations with this man “Franz”! “Franz” is a European. I say she should not see this man improperly while Father is away!  But I am confusing an old reality with a new reality: Father will not be returning home.  He will be staying on at Vernon Hall. As for Mother, she is ninety-four years old. How can there be improper relations with a woman of ninety-four? Yet my confusion must be this: though her body is old, her capacity for betrayal is still young and fresh.

Both stories from Varieties of Disturbance (2007)

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