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Sigrid Nunez

Author of the 2018 National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller, The Friend

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  • About Sigrid Nunez

    Sigrid Nunez is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling novel, The Friend. Filled with witty jabs at the literary and publishing worlds, The Friend is a funny yet insightful and poignant exploration of love and friendship, death and grief, and art and literature. As the narrator navigates through the grief of losing a good friend, Nunez weaves together an intimate reflection about the friendship between writers and the nonjudgmental companionship of a dog. The Friend won one of the literary world’s most prestigious prizes, the National Book Award for fiction. It was also longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award and the Prix Femina in the category of foreign fiction, and was also a finalist for the Prix du Meilleure Livre and the Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Prize. Nunez is also the author of Sempre Susan, a memoir about her mentor, friend, and inspiration, Susan Sontag; Salvation City, an eerie novel about a global flu pandemic seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy; The Last of Her Kind, which chronicles the lives of two roommates at Barnard College in 1968; For Rouenna, an unforgettable novel about the friendship between an unnamed writer and a military nurse who served in Vietnam; Mitz, a fictional biography of Virginia Woolf’s pet marmoset; and A Feather on the Breath of God, a memoir of her youth and coming-of-age.

    With her sincere, clever, and witty voice, Nunez has won many honors and awards, including a Whiting Writer’s Award, a Berlin Prize Fellowship, and two awards from the American Academy of Art and Letters: the Rosenthal Foundation Award and the Rome Prize in Literature. She also received the 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship. In her honest and compelling talks, she speaks to literary and educational audiences about her craft and her path to a career in writing.

    Nunez graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Barnard College and a Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University. She taught writing courses at many colleges, including Princeton University, Columbia University, and the New School. In addition to teaching, she was a Writer-in-Resident for Boston University, Baruch College, and the University of California at Irvine, among others. She currently lives in New York City.

  • Speaking Topics

    Why I Write

    Sigrid Nunez has been writing for over two decades, publishing many engaging and thoughtful novels and short stories. In this intimate talk, she speaks candidly with the audiences about the various influences on her work, and how it has developed over the course of her career. She also shares her beginnings as a writer, anecdotes about her life, and her thoughts on the writer's role in society.

    The Practice of Writing

    In this workshop, Sigrid Nunez discusses the essential elements of writing. She explores with the audiences the use of the narrative structure and the creation and development of characters, description, language, and the use of imagery and metaphor in creating a story that connects with the readers.

  • Video

  • Praise for Sigrid Nunez

    Praise for Mitz: The Marmoset of Bloomsbury

    In short, glistening sentences that refract the larger world, Ms. Nunez describes the appealingly eccentric, fiercely intelligent Woolfs during a darkening time.

    Wall Street Journal

    [A] wry, supremely intelligent literary gem about devotion — to writing, to other people, and between humans and their pets. Like The Friend, Mitz captures the heartrending downside of love and connection — loss. But it also reminds us, beautifully, of the “great solace and distraction” of literature.

    NPR

    Nunez takes great risks with this novel. . . .  [A]t its very best the book takes on the edginess of Mrs. Dalloway.

    Chicago Tribune

    Though it’s factually based on diaries, letters, and memoirs, Nunez’s Mitz: The Marmoset of Bloomsbury still offers a slice of pure whimsy.

    Entertainment Weekly

    Praise for The Friend

    The contemplation of writing and the loss of integrity in our literary life form the heart of the novel…Nunez’s prose itself comforts us. Her confident and direct style uplifts—the music in her sentences, her deep and varied intelligence. She addresses important ideas unpretentiously and offers wisdom for any aspiring writer who, as the narrator fears, may never know this dear, intelligent friend—or this world that is dying. But is it dying? Perhaps. But with The Friend, Nunez provides evidence that, for now, it survives.

    The New York Times Book Review

    Charming… the comedy here writes itself… the novel’s tone in general, however, is mournful and resonant… The snap of her sentences sometimes puts me in mind of Rachel Cusk.

    The New York Times

    In crystalline prose, Nunez creates an impressively controlled portrait of the ‘exhaustion of mourning.’

    The New Yorker

    Everywhere in this novel it is impossible to separate love and companionship from loss…The Friend is one of those rare novels that, in the end, makes your heart beat slower.

    Los Angeles Review of Books

    A meditation on reading and writing, love and loss, The Friend is a work rich in literary allusions and anecdotes….With The Friend . . . [Nunez’s] found the perfect pitch….Nunez’s prose is illuminated by a wit, warmth and wisdom all of her own. The Friendis a true delight: I genuinely fear I won’t read a better novel this year.

    The Financial Times

    A penetrating, moving meditation on loss, comfort, memory, what it means to be a writer today, and various forms of love and friendship… Nunez has a wry, withering wit.

    NPR

    The book is an intimate, beautiful thing, deceptively slight at around 200 pages, but humming with insight… [an] artfully discursive meditation on friendship, love, death, solitude, canine companionship and the life of an aging writer in New York. Far from being heavy going, this novel, written as a letter to the late friend, is peppered with wry observations, particularly those of a writer stuck teaching undergraduates.

    The Economist

    In this slim but pitch-perfect novel, a writer loses her best friend and mentor suddenly without explanation…Wry and moving, The Friend is a love story, a mania story, and a recovery story.

    Vanity Fair

    A poignant reflection on loss and companionship.

    Marie Claire

    A] sneaky gut punch of a novel…a consummate example of the human-animal tale…The Friend’s tone is dry, clear, direct—which is the surest way to carry off this sort of close-up study of anguish and attachment.

    Harper’s Magazine

    A wry riff on Rilke’s idea of love as two solitudes that ‘protect and border and greet each other.

    Vogue

    With enormous heart and eloquence, Nunez explores cerebral responses to loss… The Friend exposes an extraordinary reserve of strength waiting to be found in storytelling and unexpected companionship.

    Minneapolis Star-Tribune

    Often as funny as it is thoughtful, The Friend is an elegant meditation on grief, friendship, healing, and the bonds between humans and dogs.

    Buzzfeed

    A serious book about a big sloppy dog, Nunez’s seventh novel… displays the intellectual heft of her late friend’s work, but also a distinctive sense of humor and narrative momentum.

    Vulture

    Praise for Salvation City

    Nunez’s writing is gorgeously spare, and she gets the life and the lingo of a teenage boy just right…. [A] gorgeously strange novel.

    Boston Globe

    [A] wise and richly humane coming-of-age novel.

    O Magazine

    Given the recent H1N1 outbreak and the tragic escalation in the culture wars, Salvation City is not only timely and thought-provoking but also generous in its understanding of human nature. When the apocalypse comes, I want Nunez in my lifeboat.

    Vanity Fair

    Atheists, a flu pandemic and a coming-of-age story collide in Nunez’s sixth—and perhaps best—novel.

    Time Out New York

    Praise for The Last of Her Kind

    The Last of Her Kind is full of incident and high drama … it is, above all, about the way women communicate and interpret their experience, bearing down on every nuance, irony, anguished interchange and heartbreaking loss…. [A]n unflinching examination of justice, race and political idealism that brings to mind Philip Roth’s “American Pastoral” and the tenacious intelligence of Nadine Gordimer.

    The New York Times

    [A] carefully written and discerning narrative with closely drawn portraits of two prototypical yet unique women trying to construct a friendship across an unbridgeable class divide…. [T]he historical events, both real and invented … give Nunez’s story tragic dimensions…. Nunez’s keen powers of observation make her a natural chronicler.

    Editor’s Choice, New York Times Book Review

    In previous works, Nunez has proved herself a master of psychological acuity. Here her ambitions are grander, and the result is a remarkable and disconcerting vision of a troubled time in American history, and of its repercussions for national and individual identity.

    The New Yorker

    A passionate honesty grips the heart of The Last of Her Kind, [a] subtle and profoundly moving novel about friendship, romantic idealism, and shame.

    O, The Oprah Magazine

    [R]emarkable … we know immediately we are in the hands of a major talent able to open up a complex history for us…. [Nunez’s] gift is wild and large.

    Editor’s Choice, San Francisco Chronicle

    [S]uch questions as what it means to be American, whether hate and rage are useful tools and whether we can correct mistakes of previous generations engage us throughout.

    Los Angeles Times

    A complex, well-told tale.”

    People

    Decades from now historians would do well to consult this book to get a true sense of how the upheavals of the late 1960s reverberated through the lives of young Americans, from one who experienced this social earthquake firsthand.

    Baltimore Sun

    Nunez does a fine job of characterizing young people, then, now, and probably forever…. Since good fiction, to quote John Updike, furnishes ‘dramatized tensions, not settled conclusions,’ this vivid novel’s quest yields only the impassioned record of two complexly lived lives, which is satisfying enough.

    Chicago Tribune

    [A]n honors-level survey course in the sexual, political, and cultural movements that shaped the thinking (and rocked the world) of so many boomer women. Nunez’s voice is unflinching and intimate, her novelistic structure as invitingly informal as jottings in a journal…

    Editor’s Choice, Entertainment Weekly

    Nunez is adept at capturing subtle frictions in the interactions between class, race and gender… [She] writes with sophisticated insight.

    Seattle Times

    [A] brilliant, dazzling, daring novel. Nunez has taken the old American Dream and stood it on its head…. This novel will make you rethink “Gatsby” and its reputation as the great masterpiece of American literature—no small feat.

    Boston Globe

    Praise for A Feather on the Breath of God

    A forceful novel by a writer of uncommon talent.

    New York Times Book Review

    Praise for Sempre Susan

    A fresh and touching book…[Nunez’s] genuine curiosity about her own experience—her memories of love lost, youth and youth lost—is the quality that gives this book an elegant, almost compulsive readability.

    The New York Review of Books

    A loving memoir, full of arresting details and an occasionally spirited defense of her mentor…Sontag [once] remarked that all her work says ‘be serious, be passionate, wake up.’ Clearly someone was listening.

    The Los Angeles Times

    Susan Sontag roars to life…As magnetic and complicated as Sontag herself, Nunez’s homage is both critical and compassionate…[an] elegantly crafted chronicle of a young writer’s artistic education.

    Vanity Fair

    Nunez, an uncompromising talent in her own right, offers the most vibrant and multifaceted portrait of Sontag to date.

    Vogue

    Nunez has constructed a eulogy that mythologizes and humanizes one of the most intimidating figures of contemporary culture.

    The Boston Globe

    Sempre Susan doesn’t just evoke Susan Sontag, the person, with hard-won sympathy, insight, and cool; it contains (in a very tiny space) material for an entire novel of idealism and disillusionment….this memoir captures the spirit of her times.

    The Paris Review, Staff Picks

    Sontag once wrote about feeling estranged from the ‘Susan Sontag’ who stood on the spine of the books she had written. In Nunez’s Sempre Susan, the gap between the writer and the person who wrote the books is made all the more vividly real—a reminder of the extraordinary transformative work that goes into writing in the first place.

    Slate

    Nunez, now a fine novelist, has written a clear-eyed tribute…With an eye for the telling detail, this intimate and occasionally raw portrait makes it plain that despite all Sontag’s public renown, much of her was entirely mysterious.

    The Economist

    Praise for For Rouenna

    Beautifully written … mesmerizing … enthralling.

    O, The Oprah Magazine

    Those of us who aren’t firemen or nurses or doctors have been feeling a little lost since Sept. 11—what are we meant to do with ourselves? Nunez’s book tells us just what to do.

    Newsday

    Nunez fashions the Vietnam novel we didn’t know we were missing.

    New York Daily News

    A stellar addition to—and keen twist on—a genre that up until now has been dominated by men.

    Time Out New York

    Praise for Naked Sleeper

    [A] terrific novel.

    Dwight Garner, The New York Times

    With her well-pitched prose and eye for telling contemporary details, Ms. Nunez transforms Naked Sleeper into a story that abounds in vivid moments and moods.

    New York Times Book Review

    Fine….Nunez limns Nona’s search for self with some impressively elegant writing, which gives this book its true appeal.

    Time

    An enlightening literary adventure.

    People
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