Philip Roth accepts the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, which goes to a distinguished living American author of fiction whose body of work in English possesses qualities of excellence, ambition, and scale of achievement over a sustained career which place him or her in the highest rank of American literature, at the 2007 Literary Awards Ceremony. Read his acceptance speech below.

The backbone of 20th-century American literature has been provided by two novelists—William Faulkner and Saul Bellow. Together they are the Melville, Hawthorne, and Mark Twain of the 20th century. For me as a writer, The Adventures of Augie March, published by Bellow in 1953, remains the most inspiring American novel I have ever read. Nobody has topped Bellow yet at writing a novel about a city-bred American and chances are nobody will. I began reading Saul Bellow while a graduate student living in Augie March’s Chicago in the mid-1950s. I haven’t stopped reading and rereading him since. Where Saul Bellow is concerned, I am forever the graduate student. I am not merely honored to receive this prize bearing his name. As the graduate student, I am flabbergasted and as the writer, I am thrilled. Thank you.