PEN America Literary Awards PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature

Founded in 2016 in collaboration with the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation, the $50,000 award is conferred annually to a living author whose body of work—either written in or translated into English—represents the highest level of achievement in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and/or drama, and is of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship.

Featured Honoree: Anne Carson

Judges: Lily Hoang, Jhumpa Lahiri, Neel Mukherjee, Elif Shafak, Justin Torres

From the judges’ citation:

For crossing boundaries again and again.
For her rejection, interrogation, and redefinition of inherited forms and genres.
For her uncanny weaving of the classical and the avant-garde.
For her transformative translations.
For startling us.
For her heterodoxy, hybridity, and hilarity.
For her gravity and her wit.
For her playful erudition.
For returning us to the queer affective resonances of antiquity.
For making the unimaginable duet of philology and grief sing.
Because she is poikilos, ‘scintillat[ing] with change and ambiguity’.

The 2021 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature goes to a visionary, sui generis writer:
Anne Carson.

Anne Carson headshot


Previous Winners

2020 M. NourbeSe Philip

M. NourbeSe Philip headshotFrom the judges’ citation: “Hailing from Tobago, and now African-Canadian, M. NourbeSe Philip is the perfect candidate for the 2020 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. From her first book publication in 1980, she continuously fuses fierce ethics with experimental aesthetics, empathetic politics with avant-garde poetics, drafting sinuous argument, heart-stopping narratives, and paradoxical characters—all to showcase our moral crises. Uncompromising in thought, her works—essays, plays, poetry, fiction—never compromise, never try to circumscribe quandaries. Schooled in that dismal science—economics—and in that divisive meditation—law, Philip wields her scholarly acumen to reveal, forensically and viscerally, the anguish of the downpressed and the self-imprisonment of oppressors. To do so, she pushes language into Nabokovian mazes of miscommunication—all broken tongues and busted jaws, or typography gone haywire, or etymology become a branch of entomology, so that the classics are vivisected and syntax dissected. The dark parts of history make her sorrowful, but her responsive rage inspires purifying analyses that smash smokescreens into smithereens, to beckon on light.”

2019 Sandra Cisneros

2018 Edna O’Brien

2017 Adonis

Selection Process

The winner is selected by a panel of esteemed judges. There are no outside nominations.

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