Judges have selected the five finalists for the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, America’s largest peer-juried prize for fiction. The finalists are Sea Monsters by Chloe Arijdis (Catapult), Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li (Random House), Night Swimmers by Peter Rock (Soho Press), We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World), and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press).
“These five finalists represent clear evidence of the breadth and diversity of contemporary fiction,” said PEN/Faulkner Executive Director Gwydion Suilebhan. “We are delighted to be able to celebrate such exemplary literary achievements.”
This year’s judges—Patricia Engel, Ru Freeman, and Porochista Khakpour—considered more than 400 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the US during the 2019 calendar year. Submissions came from more than 160 publishing houses, including small and academic presses. There is no fee for a publisher to submit.
“Edward Said once wrote that humanism is the final resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history,” said this year’s judges in a prepared statement. “In writing that spins between the deeply personal to the brilliantly fantastic, these five writers have looked deeply, and with empathy, into the humanity of their characters and given us books that defy genre. Their courage and skill open the field for a new kind of literature that is dazzlingly inventive and vital.”
The “first among equals” winner, who will receive $15,000, will be announced on April 6, 2020. The remaining four finalists will each receive an honorarium of $5,000. All five authors will be honored at the 40th Anniversary PEN/Faulkner Award Celebration, which will be held on May 4 at 6:30 pm at the Willard Hotel. Tickets are $600 for an opening reception featuring specialty cocktails inspired by our finalists, a seated dinner, the award ceremony, and a post-event reception as well. Tickets can be purchased online at http://bit.ly/PFAward2020
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Chloe Aridjis is a Mexican American writer who grew up in the Netherlands and Mexico. She is the author of three novels, Book of Clouds, which won the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in France, Asunder, set in London’s National Gallery, and Sea Monsters. Chloe completed a PhD at Oxford in nineteenth-century French poetry and magic shows and was guest curator of the Leonora Carrington exhibition at Tate Liverpool. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014 and the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writers Award for 2020. Chloe is a member of XR Writers Rebel, a group of writers who focus on addressing the climate emergency. She lives in London, where she often writes for art journals.
Yiyun Li is the author of five works of fiction—Where Reasons End, Kinder Than Solitude, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, The Vagrants, and Gold Boy, Emerald Girl—and the memoir Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life. A native of Beijing and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she is the recipient of many awards, including a PEN/Hemingway Award and a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, and was named by The New Yorker as one of the “20 Under 40” fiction writers to watch. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, The Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories, among other publications. She teaches at Princeton University and lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
Peter Rock is the author of ten works of fiction, most recently The Night Swimmers, SPELLS, Klickitat and The Shelter Cycle. The recipient of fellowships from Stanford University, the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, he currently lives with his wife and daughters in Portland, Oregon, where he has taught writing at Reed College since 2001. Leave No Trace, Debra Granik’s adaptation of his novel My Abandonment, premiered at Sundance and Cannes and was released in 2018.
Maurice Carlos Ruffin is the author of We Cast A Shadow, a finalist for the PEN/Open Book Award, and longlisted for the Center for Fiction Prize and the Aspen Words Literary Prize; and named one of the best books of the year by NPR and The Washington Post. His work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, The Kenyon Review and elsewhere. A native of New Orleans, Ruffin is a graduate of the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop and a member of the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance.
Ocean Vuong is the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds and the New York Times bestselling novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. A recipient of the 2019 MacArthur “Genius” Grant, he is also the winner of the Whiting Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His writings have been featured in The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.