New Yorker freelancer says genius grant ‘helps keep me patient and develop at a natural pace’

September 21, 2011
Category: Uncategorized

Westword | Denver Post
Peter Hessler got news about his $500,000 MacArthur Foundation grant while preparing to move to Cairo with his wife and two year-old daughters. (“All my friends that live there, in Cairo, tell me that Egypt is a really funny place, that Egyptians have a great sense of humor, and we never read anything like that in the press.”) The New Yorker freelancer says of his grant: “It’s great. It’s disorienting. This has been a crazy month as it was. I feel like I’ve been juggling a lot and then suddenly all this happened. My head just feels turned around.” Jenny An asks Hessler what he’s going to do with the half-million. His response:

There’s no specific… it’ll go toward Arabic lesson in Cairo and it’ll go toward this move. I write for The New Yorker, but I’m not salaried. I’m basically a freelancer. I have a regular contract with them, but I still get paid by the word. And during this period, we’re sort of taking a risk. We’re studying Arabic for two months, which means two months that I’m not working. And this initial period in Cairo, I expect to be heavily weighted toward language study.

Hessler tells the Denver Post he was so shocked to get the MacArthur Foundation call that he “couldn’t make any sense at all” of the notes he scribbled during the conversation.
> New MacArthur fellow Jad Abumrad says public radio needs “more joy, more chaos”