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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 30, 2004

IWP Director Christopher Merrill Wins Greece's Top Journalism Award

Christopher Merrill, director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, has been selected to receive the 2005 Kostas Kyriazis Award, Greece's most prestigious journalism award.

Merrill is only the third American to receive the honor, joining Tom Friedman and Kati Marton.

The award from the Kostas Kyriazis Foundation recognizes Merrill's forthcoming book from Random House, "Things Of the Hidden God," as well as the body of his journalistic work.

In "Things of the Hidden God" Merrill describes the transformative pilgrimages he made to sacred Mount Athos, in Greece, in the aftermath of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. His experiences covering those wars were chronicled in the acclaimed book "Only the Nails Remain."

Merrill explained his decision to visit the ancient monasteries of Mount Athos, the spiritual center of the Greek Orthodox religion: "It was time for me to come to terms with the way my life had turned out: the love I had squandered, the misgivings I had about my vocation and my faith, the dread I felt at every turn."

Reviewing Merrill's new book, W.S. Merwin wrote, "Mount Athos is a spectacular and spellbinding place, mysterious and magnetic, dedicated to its own secrets. Mr. Merrill's intimately conceived and beautifully told tribute to his deepening relation to the lure of Athos and its traditions, and the discoveries to which it has led him, is a rich and revealing personal chronicle."

Merrill's books include four collections of poetry, including "Watch Fire," for which he received the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; translations; several edited volumes; and three books of nonfiction -- "The Grass of Another Country: A Journey Through the World of Soccer"; "The Old Bridge: The Third Balkan War and the Age of the Refugee"; and "Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars." His work has been translated into 16 languages.

He is also the commentator on international literature for the syndicated radio program, "The World," jointly produced by the BBC and station WGBH in Boston.

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