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Cypriot writer awarded prestigious Harvard prize

Argyro Nicolaou

Argyro Nicolaou, a Cypriot writer and filmmaker, has been awarded one of Harvard University’s prestigious Bowdoin Prizes for her essay “‘Now That the World Has Become an Endless Hotel’: European Narratives of Displacement in the Middle East During the Second World War”.

The award-winning essay brings to light the often-forgotten first-person narratives of Europeans displaced to the Middle East during the Second World War.

It uses historical and literary sources to highlight a dark part of Europe’s history that undermines current stereotypes of refugees and migrants that dominate contemporary European politics.

“I strongly believe that the stories we find in literature and other cultural works can be extremely powerful in shaping understanding of history, politics, and citizenship,” Nicolaou said. “Having my essay on refugee narratives recognised with this important award, in a moment of global political uncertainty, demonstrates how culture can and should have an active role in social and political debates.”

The Bowdoin Prizes, some of Harvard’s oldest and most prestigious student awards, are designed to recognize essays of originality and high literary merit, written in a way that engages both specialists and non-specialists.

Established in 1791, the Bowdoin Prizes have been awarded to many notable Harvard students, among them the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, the former Harvard presidents Charles Eliot and Nathan Pusey, and the novelist John Updike.

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