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.


Judges: Amit Chaudhuri, Roya Hakakian, Maaza Mengiste

From the judges’ citation:

Vinod Kumar Shukla is generally recognized as one of the greatest living writers in the Hindi language. A short story writer, novelist, poet, and essayist of extraordinary sophistication, his works balance an uncommon directness and simplicity with a remarkable integrity. Reclusive and singularly focused on his writing, Shukla’s prose and poetry are marked by acute, often defamiliarizing, observation and a remarkable intellect. A lifetime spent in North Indian small towns has only helped to sharpen the originality of his vision. In his writings, the voice that emerges is that of a deeply intelligent onlooker; a daydreamer struck occasionally by wonder. His work, once encountered, is easy to surrender to, but difficult to pin down or categorize. Though one might easily compare him to Kafka, Borges, Kiarostami, or Italian neorealist cinema, Shukla remains wholly original. Writing for decades without the recognition he deserves, Shukla has created literature that changes how we understand the modern. With this award, the 2023 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature acknowledges a writer as well as a tradition, or traditions, of anomalousness in literature without which we cannot fully grasp our history or inhabit our present.


Previous Winners

2022 Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is a transformative figure in African literature. For nearly sixty years, he has been committed to telling the stories of a country and a people whose political destiny was brutally interrupted by outsiders. In novels like Weep Not ChildA Grain of WheatThe River Between, and Wizard of the Crow he has portrayed with great honesty and sensitivity the lasting divisions that colonial rule sowed within families and cultures, the damage wrought by the dictatorships that followed independence, and the joys of finding freedom in all its forms—personal, political, and linguistic.

2021 Anne Carson

2020 M. NourbeSe Philip

2019 Sandra Cisneros

2018 Edna O’Brien

2017 Adonis

Previous Judges

2021: Lily Hoang, Jhumpa Lahiri, Neel Mukherjee, Elif Shafak, Justin Torres

2020: Lila Azam Zanganeh, George Elliott Clarke, Hari Kunzru, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Alexis Okeowo

2019: Alexander Chee, Edwidge Danticat, and Valeria Luiselli

2018: Michael Ondaatje and Diana Abu-Jaber

2017: Ayad Akhtar, Aravind Adiga, Robin Coste Lewis, Jessica Hagedorn, Thrity Umrigar

Selection Process

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