The Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation announced that this year the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award constituting $10,000 stipend is presented to Wendell Berry – a writer, poet, essayist and full-time farmer.
The award carries the name of the American diplomat who was mostly responsible for the signing of 1995 Dayton Peace Accords in Bosnia and is given to the writers who have succeeded in preaching peace, harmony and mutual understanding among people. It is not unexpected news at all that this year it was presented to Wendell Berry – he seems to be a perfect person to be chosen for this award, and it is surprising that he hasn’t received it before.
Berry, 79, has been promoting the idea that men should live in harmony both with each other and the Earth his entire life, and did his best to live according to the beliefs he preaches. He is not only a writer, but a farmer as well – despite his advanced age he still keeps a garden and raises sheep. His house in central Kentucky is mostly devoid of technological advancements of contemporary times – according to Berry, such a lifestyle keeps him well attuned to the problems and issues he writes about.
According to Berry, one of the worst things that happen to today’s world is steady decline of rural communities, traditional values and advancement of industrial agriculture, greed and global economics. He is an extremely prolific author – by now he has written more than fifty complete works, including fiction, nonfiction and poetry. His fiction is constituted by eight novels set in a small rural community of Port William, and they serve as the best embodiment of his ideas and beliefs.
Although Berry, being a strong proponent of localism, doesn’t appear in the news all too often, his name is, nevertheless, well-known to environmental activists all over the country. During his lifetime he was not only consistent in his beliefs and their depiction in his literary works, but also never shunned an opportunity to express them in other ways, by means of non-violent acts of civil disobedience, open statements in magazines and so on and so forth.
Berry’s election for the prize was only natural – according to Sharon Rub, founder and co-chairwoman of the Dayton Literary Prize Foundation, Berry has been promoting the ideas of peace and peaceful coexistence with nature for more than half a century, and it is high time for the world to acknowledge his exploits in this area. Berry himself characterizes his own work in its entirety as the story he was telling his entire life, believing in its potential instructiveness for other people.
The fact that he was given this award shows that at least his work was noticed.