Magda Bogin Wins 1995 Ribalow Prize

Photograph: Magda Bogin. Photo Credit: Joe Pineiro.

Magda Bogin, professor of writing in the School of the Arts, is the winner of the 1995 Harold U. Ribalow Prize for literary excellence for her novel, Natalya, God's Messenger, published by Scribner.

The prize, administered by Hadassah Magazine, was awarded by judges who included Elie Wiesel and Thomas Keneally. The prize is awarded annually for literary excellence for a work of fiction on a Jewish theme.

"Like many other Ribalow Prize recipients, Bogin's novel marks her debut and a trend of continued literary success and wider recognition," said Alan Tigay, executive editor.

Set at the close of World War II, Natalya, God's Messenger, is the story of Rita, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, who loses her job as a machinist and takes over a palm reading practice on the Lower East Side. Rita soon finds she has true clairvoyant power, and is reborn as Natalya, whose reputation spreads as she foresees a turbulent future for America. However, her powers to see her own life clearly come less easily, and the story of Natalya unfolds as a lesson in humanity's mysterious path toward truth.

"I'm honored and pleased that this book has been recognized by such a distinguished jury," she said. "The book is about how any of us think we know what we know, and how we read between the lines of supposed fact and spin hopes for the future from the present. In this book, the power to imagine things being different is what gets passed from one generation to the next. I am interested in both history and hope, which often seem so irreconcilable."

Bogin is best known for her translation of Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits. She is also the author of The Women Troubadours and has translated many works of fiction and poetry from Spanish, French and Catalan. She is now working on a second novel.

At Columbia's School of the Arts, she teaches fiction workshops and seminars, and, with Professor Michael Scammell, has developed a new program in literary translation.

Columbia University Record -- December 1, 1995 -- Vol. 21, No. 11