2015 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay


Ian Buruma for Theater of Cruelty: Art, Film, and the Shadows of War (New York Review Books)

The PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay aims to preserve the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature. The winner receives a cash award of $10,000 and will be honored at the PEN Literary Awards.

Read the PEN Ten interview with Ian Buruma here

From the Judges' Citation

Restlessly global, and just as restlessly humanistic, Theater of Cruelty is a stunning illustration of the ways in which essaysin the hands of a master of the formcan make seemingly disparate experiences coherent, bring unity to complexity, and form to variety. Ian Buruma's essays enable us to interpret both our moral experience imaginatively, and our imaginative experience morally, and they bind our inner lives to our outer ones. Buruma can range easily across subjects from Clint Eastwood, to Fassbinder, to Mishima to R. Crumb to Satyajit Ray in ways that make the association of all these minds seem inevitable. His underlying and unyielding commitment is to observe without flinching the consequences of violent history on culture and our collective life, and to investigate, assess, judge, and praise the response of the makers of culture to those consequences."


Moral Imagination (Princeton University Press), David Bromwich
Theater of Cruelty (New York Review Books), Ian Buruma
Loitering (Tin House Books), Charles D’Ambrosio
The Empathy Exams (Graywolf Press), Leslie Jamison
Limber (Sarabande Books), Angela Pelster


Moral Imagination (Princeton University Press), David Bromwich
Theater of Cruelty (New York Review Books), Ian Buruma
Loitering (Tin House Books), Charles D’Ambrosio
Surrendering Oz (Etruscan Press), Bonnie Friedman
The Hard Way on Purpose (Scribner), David Giffels
Where Have You Been? (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Michael Hofmann
The Empathy Exams (Graywolf Press), Leslie Jamison
Sidewalks (Coffee House Press), Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney
Limber (Sarabande Books), Angela Pelster
You Feel So Mortal (University Of Chicago Press), Peggy Shinner

2015 Judges

Diane Johnson is a novelist and essayist. A two-time finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in three different genres—essay, biography, and fiction, she is the co-author with Stanley Kubrick of the screenplay for the now classic film The ShiningShe is the author of Le Divorce, Lulu in Marrakech, Lying Low and other novels, and a 2014 memoir Flyover Lives. She is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and splits her time between San Francisco and Paris. Photo Credit: Alison Harris


Dahlia Lithwick is a senior editor at Slate, where she writes the columns "Supreme Court Dispatches" and "Jurisprudence." Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and Commentary, among other publications. She won a 2013 National Magazine Award for her columns on the Affordable Care Act, and has twice been awarded an Online Journalism Award for her legal commentary. Lithwick was the first online journalist invited to be on the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, and has testified before Congress about access to justice in the era of the Roberts Court. She is currently working on a book about the four female justices of the US Supreme Court.

Vijay Seshadri is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, essayist, and critic. He is the author of Wild Kingdom (1996), James Laughlin Award recipient The Long Meadow (2003), and 3 Sections (2013). His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in A Public Space, AGNI, The Threepenny Review, and The Paris Review, among many other publications. Seshadri has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the NEA, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has worked as an editor at The New Yorker and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, where he founded and has directed the nonfiction writing program for the past decade.

Mark Slouka is an internationally recognized author of six books. Both his fiction and nonfiction have been translated into sixteen languages. His stories have twice been selected for inclusion in Best American Short Stories, and his essays have appeared numerous times for Best American Essays. A contributing editor to Harper's Magazine since 2001, his work also appears in Ploughshares, Orion Magazine, Bomb, The Paris Review, AGNI, and Granta. A Guggenheim and NEA fellowship recipient, he has taught literature and writing at Harvard, Columbia, and University of Chicago. He is the 2011 recipient of the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for his collection of essays Nick of Time.

Past winners

Bernard Knox, Martha Nussbaum, David B. Morris, Frederick Crews, Stanley Fish, John Brinckerhoff Jackson, Thomas Nagel, Cynthia Ozick, Adam Hochschild, Marilynne Robinson, Annie Dillard, David Quammen, David Bromwich, William H. Gass, Stewart Justman, Mark Slouka, Christopher Hitchens, Robert Hass, and James Wolcott.

Click here for addtional information, including submission guidelines, for the award.

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