New York, NY, April 24, 2008—Francine Prose, 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 2008 PEN Literary Awards, the most comprehensive literary awards program in the United States.

The 2008 recipients were determined by distinguished panels of judges, all of whom are writers, editors, translators, poets, or playwrights themselves. This year’s program will see the conferral of a new award: the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography. The PEN Awards will be presented in New York on the evening of Monday, May 19, at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center. 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 Awards

The PEN/Nabokov Award is international in scope and celebrates the accomplishments of a living author whose body of work, either written in or translated into English, represents achievement in a variety of literary genres and is of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship. The PEN/Nabokov Award is made possible by the Vladimir Nabokov Foundation, founded by Dmitri Nabokov. The judges for this year’s award were Brian Boyd, Mary Gordon, and Richard Price.

This year’s honoree is Cynthia Ozick. Cynthia Ozick has published widely—beginning with the novel Trust in 1966. Over the years she has written poems, short stories, essays, novels, and a play. Among them: The Pagan Rabbi (1971); Bloodshed (1976); Levitation (1982); Art & Ardor (1983); The Cannibal Galaxy (1983); The Messiah of Stockholm (1987); Metaphor & Memory (1989); The Shawl (1989); Fame & Folly (1996); Heir to the Glimmering World (2004); The Din in the Head (2006); and Dictation (2008). Her many awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Award, the Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and four O. Henry First Prizes. The Shawl has been selected for the National Endowment for the Arts nationwide Big Read program, and in 2007 Ozick received the Presidential Medal for the Humanities.


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 2007—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.

This year’s award goes to Dalia Sofer for her novel The Septembers of Shiraz (Ecco). Finalists are Joshua Ferris for Then We Come to the End (Little, Brown and Company) and Alex Mindt for The Male of the Species (Delphinium Books). The judges for this year’s fellowship were David Leavitt, Elizabeth Strout, and Lily Tuck.


The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography is a biennial prize of $10,000 given to a distinguished biography possessing notable literary merit which has been published in the United States during the previous two calendar years. The award was established by Rodman L. Drake. The judges for the award were Amy Hempel, Robert Polito, and Roxana Robinson.

The inaugural award will be given to Janet Malcolm for Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice (Yale University Press). The finalists are Julie Kavanagh for Nureyev: The Life (Pantheon Books) and John Richardson for A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932 (Knopf).

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. The awards confer five $1,000 prizes upon African, Arab, Asian, Caribbean, Latino, and 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 Allison Hedge Coke, Karen Shepard, and Luis Alberto Urrea. Winners will be announced at the ceremony on May 19.


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 A.R. Gurney, Naomi Iizuka, and Doug Wright.

This year’s honorees are Richard Nelson, best known for his plays Goodnight Children Everywhere, Some American Abroad, Two Shakespearean Actors, Conversations in Tusculum, Madame Melville, The General from America, Frank’s Home, New England, Franny’s Way, Rodney’s Wife, and the musicals James Joyce’s The Dead (with Shaun Davey), and My Life with Albertine (with Ricky Ian Gordon), and Sarah Ruhl, whose works include The Clean House (Susan Smith Blackburn award, 2004, finalist for Pulitzer Prize, 2005), Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Demeter in the City (nominated for an NAACP award), Melancholy Play, Eurydice, Late: A Cowboy Song, Orlando, and Passion Play (Kennedy Center Fourth Forum Freedom Award and Helen Hayes nomination).

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.

This year’s award goes to Theresa Nelson, author of the forthcoming Julia Delany: The American Version, for which she is receiving the award. The judges for this year’s award were Christopher Paul Curtis, Sid Fleischman, and Mitali Perkins.


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.

This year’s award goes to Margaret Jull Costa for her translation from the Portuguese of Eça de Queirós’ The Maias (New Directions). The finalists for the award are Peter Constantine for his translation from the Italian of The Essential Writings of Machiavelli by Machiavelli (Random House) and Evan Fallenberg for his translation from the Hebrew of a Pigeon and a Boy by Meir Shalev (Schocken Books). The judges for the award were John Balcom, Mary Ann Caws, and Shelley Frisch.

The $3,000 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation is conferred every spring in New York. The award 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 2008 prize was Marilyn Hacker.

This year’s award goes to Rosmarie Waldrop for her translation from the German of Lingos I-IX by Ulf Stolterfoht (Burning Deck Press). The finalists for the award are Fady Joudah for his translation from the Arabic of The Butterfly’s Burden by Mahmoud Darwish (Copper Canyon Press) and Elizabeth Macklin for her translation from the Basque of Meanwhile Take My Hand by Kirmen Uribe (Graywolf Press).

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.


The PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, established by a bequest from Hunce Voelcker, will be presented for the eighth time to an American poet whose distinguished and growing body of work to date represents a notable and accomplished presence in American literature. The poet honored by the award is one for whom the exceptional promise seen in earlier work has been fulfilled, and who continues to mature with each successive volume of poetry. The award is given in even-numbered years and carries a stipend of $5,000. This year’s judges were Kwame Dawes, Mark Doty, and Marie Howe.

This year’s honoree is Kimiko Hahn. She is the author seven books of poems, including: Earshot (Hanging Loose Press, 1992), which was awarded the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize and an Association of Asian American Studies Literature Award; The Unbearable Heart (Kaya, 1996), which received an American Book Award; and The Narrow Road to the Interior (W.W. Norton, 2006). Hahn is a recipient of a number of fellowships and awards, including The Shelley Memorial Prize and a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award. She is a Distinguished Professor in the MFA program at Queens College/CUNY.

Special Thanks

PEN gratefully acknowledges the support of Houghton Mifflin, Bauman Rare Books, and the assistance of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, all of whom have made contributions that have made the ceremony and reception possible.

 Nick Burd, (212) 334-1660, ext. 108, [email protected]