Russell Banks

Russell Banks was an internationally acclaimed American author of twenty-one works of fiction and non-fiction. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. Two of his novels, Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter, became award-winning feature films.

Russell Banks was born into a blue-collar family, an experience that profoundly influenced his writing. When Banks was 12 years old, his father deserted the family. Despite receiving a scholarship to Colgate University, he dropped out six weeks into the program and headed south instead, as he said he had "intention of joining Fidel Castro's insurgent army in Cuba, but wound up working in a department store in Lakeland, Florida".

His novels Continental Drift (1985) and Cloudsplitter (1998) received Pulitzer Prize nominations, highlighting his ability to weave complex stories that delve into American life's essence.
Continental Drift was the breakthrough novel, offering a bold narrative that intertwined the lives of Bob Dubois, a New Englander seeking a new start in Florida, and Vanise Dorsinville, a young Haitian woman striving to reach the same state. In this "visionary epic," contemporary American life is dissected in great detail.

Cloudsplitter, another monumental work, focused on the radical abolitionist John Brown, reflecting the author's interest in the themes of heroism and its feasibility in a secular and democratic age.

Banks was celebrated for his vivid and deep portrayals of working-class Americans. His narratives, often set against the backdrop of economically depressed towns in the Northeast, explored themes of poverty, race, and class.

Banks received numerous accolades, including Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature, and the American Book Award. He was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Besides his novels, Banks wrote essays, reviews, screenplays, and poetry. He taught at several universities, including Princeton University, where he was the Howard G.B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus.

Banks also served as the New York State Author from 2004 to 2008 and held positions in various literary and cultural organizations, earning him national and international recognition.

Russell Banks lived in upstate New York and Miami, Florida, with his wife, poet Chase Twichell. He passed away at his home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at the age of 82 due to cancer.

Photo credit: www.russellbanks.com
years of life: 28 May 1940 7 January 2023
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