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PEN American Center Announces 2009 Literary Award Recipients

May 4, 2009



New York, NY, May 4, 2009—Kwame Anthony Appiah, president of PEN American Center, the national association of literary writers, and Elissa Schappell, chair of PEN’s Literary Awards Committee, have announced the recipients of the 2009 PEN Literary Awards, the most comprehensive literary awards program in the United States.

The 2009 recipients were determined by distinguished panels of judges, all of whom are writers, editors, translators, poets, or playwrights themselves. This year’s program will feature the second conferral of The PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. PEN will also partner with Vintage to recognize the recipients of The PEN/O. Henry Prize. The PEN Awards will be presented in New York on the evening of Tuesday, May 19, at Elebash Recital Hall at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Members of the press are welcome to attend. Prior to the ceremony, the judges, finalists, and honorees will be available beginning at 5:30 p.m. The ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m.


CAREER ACHIEVEMENT

The PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction 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. The award carries a stipend of $25,000. The judges for this year’s award were Claudia Roth Pierpont, Philip Roth, and Benjamin Taylor.

This year’s honoree is Cormac McCarthy. Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island in 1933 and spent most of his childhood near Knoxville, Tennessee. He served in the U.S. Air Force and later studied at the University of Tennessee. In 1976 he moved to El Paso, Texas, and now resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

McCarthy’s fiction parallels his movement from the Southeast to the West—the first four novels being set in Tennessee, the last three in the Southwest and Mexico. The Orchard Keeper (1965) won the Faulkner Award for a first novel; it was followed by Outer Dark (1968), Child of God (1973), Suttree (1979), and Blood Meridian (1985). All the Pretty Horses, which won the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1992, is the first volume in McCarthy’s acclaimed Border Trilogy, and was followed by The Crossing (1994) and Cities of the Plain (1998). 

He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. He is also the author of The Stone Mason: A Play in Five Acts. McCarthy is also the recipient of a fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation, among other grants.

The PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation is given every three years and honors a translator whose career has demonstrated a commitment to excellence through the body of his or her work.

This year’s honoree is Michael Henry Heim. In the award citation, PEN Translation Committee Chair Michael F. Moore writes: “Michael Henry Heim is one of the great translator humanists of our time. His vision of world literature and farsighted promotion of translation have been an inspiration to generations.

A man of boundless curiosity, he commands a breathtaking range of languages, including French, German, Hungarian, Serbian, Czech, Russian, and Chinese, and among the authors he has brought into English are Milan Kundera, Danilo Kis, Karel Kapek, Gunter Grass, Peter Esterhazy, and George Konrad. His translations encompass every literary genre, from novels, to poetry, theater, mathematical treatises, and essayistic prose, not to mention his own prolific output as a literary critic.”

FICTION

The PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers honors an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work—a first novel or collection of short stories published in 2008—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise. The winner receives a cash award of $35,000, a stipend intended to permit a significant degree of leisure in which to pursue a second work of literary fiction. The fellowship was established in memory of Robert Bingham, who died in 1999 at the age of 33, to commemorate his support of young writers, his love of literature, and his contribution to literary fiction. The judges for this year’s fellowship were Kathryn Harrison, Janna Levin, and Dale Peck.

This year’s award goes to Donald Ray Pollock for his collection Knockemstiff (Doubleday). The finalists are Rivka Galchen for Atmospheric Disturbances (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and Aravind Adiga for The White Tiger (Free Press).

The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories are the product of a new partnership between Vintage and PEN American Center. Since 1919, twenty stories have been chosen each year and collected in the annual O.Henry Prize Stories, whose original and present mission is to strengthen the art of the short story. Now in partnership with PEN, the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories continues the tradition of recognizing excellence in the short story and encouraging writers and readers alike to celebrate the form. This year’s prize jury selections were made by A.S. Byatt, Tim O’Brien, and Anthony Doerr.

This year’s recipients are Graham Joyce, Kristen Sundberg Lunstrum, E. V. Slate, John Burnside, Mohan Sikka, L. E. Miller, Alistair Morgan, Roger Nash, Manuel Muñoz, Caitlin Horrocks, Ha Jin, Paul Theroux, Judy Troy, Nadine Gordimer, Viet Dinh, Karen Brown, Marisa Silver, Paul Yoon, Andrew Sean Greer, and Junot Díaz.

BOOKS

The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography is a prize of $10,000 given to a distinguished biography possessing notable literary merit which has been published in the United States during the previous calendar year. The award was established by Rodman L. Drake. The judges for the award were Timothy Noah, René Steinke, and Judith Thurman.

The 2009 award will be given to Richard Brody for Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard (Metropolitan Books). The finalists are Jeffrey Meyers for Samuel Johnson: The Struggle (Basic Books) and Stanley Plumly for Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography (W.W. Norton & Co.).

The PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction is a biennial prize of $10,000 given to a distinguished work of nonfiction possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective and illuminating important contemporary issues which has been published in the United States during the previous two calendar years. The book should possess the qualities of intellectual rigor and importance, perspicuity of expression, and stylistic elegance conspicuous in the writings of author and economist John Kenneth Galbraith, whose four dozen books and countless other publications continue to provide an important and incisive commentary on the American social, intellectual and political scene. The jurors for the 2009 prize were Ted Conover, Lis Harris, and Katha Pollitt.

The 2009 award goes to Steve Coll for The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century (The Penguin Press). The finalists are Jeff Madrick for The Case for Big Government (Princeton University Press) and Jane Mayer for The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals (Doubleday).

The PEN/Beyond Margins Awards were created by PEN American Center's Open Book Committee, a group committed to racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities. This year’s awards will confer three $1,000 prizes upon African, Arab, Asian, Caribbean, Latino, or Native American authors who have not received wide media coverage. U.S. residency or citizenship is not required.

The judges for this year’s awards are Frances Hwang, Roger Sedarat, and Michael Thomas. Winners will be announced at the ceremony on May 19.


PLAYWRITING

The PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Awards for Drama recognize a master American dramatist and an American playwright in mid-career, both of whose literary achievements are vividly apparent in the rich and striking language of their work. The former receives a rare first edition of dramatic literature, the latter a $7,500 stipend. The awards are made possible by a grant from the Laura Pels Foundation and were developed to reflect Laura Pels’ dedication to supporting excellence in American theater, as well as PEN’s commitment to recognizing and rewarding the literary accomplishments of playwrights. The award is made possible by a contribution from Bauman Rare Books. The judges for this year’s awards were Richard Nelson, Theresa Rebeck, and Sarah Ruhl.

This year’s Master playwright award goes to Sam Shepard, best known for his plays Buried Child, Curse of the Starving Class, True West, Fool for Love, and A Lie of the Mind. The mid-career award goes to Nilo Cruz, whose works include Anna in the Tropics, Beauty of the Father, Lorca in a Green Dress, Two Sisters and a Piano, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, Dancing on Her Knees, and A Park in Our House.


CHILDREN'S LITERATURE

The PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship responds to the need for a measure of financial sustenance that can make possible an extended period of time to complete a book-length work in progress. The fellow will receive $5,000 in assistance at a crucial moment in his or her career when monetary support is particularly needed. The fellowship is made possible by a substantial contribution from PEN member Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. The judges for this year’s award were Lucy Frank, Patricia Reilly Giff, and Ann Martin.

This year’s award goes to Carol Lynch Williams, author of the forthcoming A Glimpse Is All I Can Stand, for which she is receiving the award.


TRANSLATION

The PEN Translation Prize goes to book-length translations from any language into English published during the previous calendar year. The $3,000 prize has been conferred since 1963 in recognition of the art of the literary translator, and it is the first American award to do so. The judges for this year's award were David Bellos, Jason Grunebaum, and Marian Schwartz.

This year’s award goes to Natasha Wimmer for her translation from the Spanish of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The finalists for the award are Jordan Stump for his translation from the French of The Waitress Was New by Dominique Fabre (Archipelago Books) and Joel Rotenberg for his translation from the German of The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig (NYRB Classics).

The $3,000 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation recognizes book-length translations of poetry from any language into English published during the previous calendar year, and is judged by a single translator of poetry appointed by the PEN Translation Committee. The award was made possible originally by a bequest from the late translator and PEN member Rae Dalven and is currently supported by The Kaplen Foundation. The judge for the 2009 prize was Lawrence Venuti.

This year’s award goes to Marilyn Hacker for her translation from the French of King of a Hundred Horsemen by Marie Étienne (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The finalists for the award are Randall Couch for his translation from the Spanish of Madwomen by Gabriela Mistral (The University of Chicago Press) and Forrest Gander for his translation of Firefly Under the Tongue: Selected Poems by Coral Bracho (New Directions).

The PEN Translation Fund Grants support the translation of book-length works of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or drama that have not previously appeared in English or have appeared only in an egregiously flawed translation. The voting members of this year’s Advisory Board were Sara Bershtel, Edwin Frank, Michael Henry Heim, Michael Moore, Richard Sieburth and Jeffrey Yang. Esther Allen guided the Board’s deliberations without a vote. A complete list of this year’s winners can be found here.


POETRY

The PEN/Osterweil Award for Poetry is a $5,000 award that recognizes the high literary character of the published work to date of a new and emerging American poet of any age and the promise of further literary achievement. Poets are nominated by PEN members and may not have published more than one book of poetry. The award is made possible through a grant from The Kaplen Foundation. This year’s jurors were Chris Abani, Linda Gregg, and Matthew Zapruder. This year’s award goes to Jeffrey Yang, author of An Aquarium (Graywolf Press).


EDITING

The PEN/Nora Magid Award for Editing, established in 1993, honors a magazine editor whose high literary standards and taste have, throughout his or her career, contributed significantly to the excellence of the publication he or she edits. Candidates for the biennial $2,500 award include current editors-in-chief, literary editors, and "back-of-the-book" editors of serious general interest magazines, book reviews, or literary reviews and quarterlies, whose intellectual discernment and wide range of interests recall the late PEN member Nora Magid, who was for many years the literary editor of The Reporter. The award is made possible by a grant from PEN member Gerald Weales. The jurors for this year’s prize were T Cooper, Walter Kirn, and Richard Nash. This year’s recipient is Hannah Tinti, editor of One Story.



SPECIAL THANKS

PEN gratefully acknowledges the support of Houghton Mifflin, Bauman Rare Books, and the assistance of The Graduate Center, CUNY, all of whom have made contributions that have made the ceremony and reception possible.

For more information, contact: Nick Burd, (212) 334-1660, ext. 108

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