Minnesota writer wins lifetime achievement award

  • Article by: LAURIE HERTZEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 1, 2012 - 2:16 PM

The annual Dayton Literary Peace Prize recognizes his work illuminating soldiers' experiences in the Vietnam War.

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Vietnam veteran and author Tim O'Brien is seen in an undated photo provided himself. O'Brien, whose writings have shown war and its long-term impacts through a regular soldier's eyes, on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012 was named the winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize's lifetime achievement award.

Photo: Meredith O'Brien, Associated Press

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Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" is a haunting collection of stories about soldiers in Vietnam and was a finalist for the Pultizer Prize. "Going After Cacciato," O'Brien's 1978 novel about a soldier who decides to walk away from the war -- all the way to Paris -- won the National Book Award. "If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home" was called the single greatest work to come out of the Vietnam War.

War and its endless, eternal ramifications has been a constant theme in the work of O'Brien, a Minnesota native. And for that body of work he was awarded Wednesday the Dayton Literary Peace Prize's annual lifetime achievement award.

The prize "promotes the cause of peace by helping people understand the ugly realities of war on a deep, personal level, which is exactly what I strive to do in my work," O'Brien said in a prepared statement. "Over what has been a long career, this award means more to me than any other -- by far."

O'Brien, 65, was born in Austin, Minn., grew up in Worthington, Minn., and graduated with honors from Macalester College in St. Paul. He now lives and teaches in Texas. He set several of his books in Minnesota -- "Northern Lights," and "In the Lake of the Woods" -- but always the specter of Vietnam and war was deeply present.

The Dayton prize was launched in 2006. Last year, it was renamed the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award in honor of the U.S. diplomat who brokered the 1995 peace accords on Bosnia. The award is meant to recognize the power of literature in promoting peace and global understanding.

Previous winners include Barbara Kingsolver, Studs Terkel and Elie Wiesel.

O'Brien will receive $10,000. The award will be given on Nov. 11 in Dayton, Ohio.

Laurie Hertzel • 612-673-7302

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