Lydia Davis Wins the 2020 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story

WASHINGTON, DC—The PEN/Faulkner Foundation announces that Lydia Davis has been selected as the winner of the 2020 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Presented since 1988 in honor of the late Bernard Malamud, the award recognizes writers who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in the short story form.

“Wildly inventive, fiercely observant, a master of concision, Lydia Davis is arguably one of the most creative, funny, playful, cranky, and joyful short story writers at work today,” wrote PEN/Faulkner Board member Susan Coll on behalf of the PEN/Malamud Award selection committee. “She can craft a satisfying arc from a one-sentence missive about geography, or from a letter of complaint to a candy manufacturer, while also mastering more traditional narrative forms. She has a lot to say about eating fish, too. It’s tempting to say that Davis subverts form, but what she really does is teach us that the meaning of the word ‘story,’ itself, is endlessly elastic.”

Lydia Davis is the author of Varieties of Disturbance, which was a National Book Award Finalist, Samuel Johnson Is Indignant, Almost No Memory, The End of the Story (a novel), and Break It Down. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, which combines the story collections above, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2009. Her most recent collection of stories is Can’t & Won’t (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014). Davis’s Essays One, her first nonfiction book, was published in 2019 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Her work has appeared in Conjunctions, Harper’s, The New Yorker, Bomb, The Paris Review, Tin House, McSweeney’s, and many other magazines and literary journals. Davis is a translator of French works by Maurice Blanchot, Michael Leiris, Marcel Proust’s (Swann’s Way) and Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary). Among other honors, she has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Literary Prize, and she has been named Chevalier and Officier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government. In 2003, she won the French-American Translation Prize, and in 2005 she was inducted into the Academy of Arts & Sciences. In May 2013, she won the Man Booker International Prize, a biannual award for achievement in fiction on the world stage, which is distinct in that it considers literary excellence across the writer’s body of work. She lives in upstate New York with her family.

“I’m particularly pleased to be receiving the PEN/Malamud award for three reasons: my admiration for the work that PEN/Faulkner has been doing over so many years, my long-continuing respect for the writing of Bernard Malamud, and my personal memory of at least one occasion that my family spent time with Bernard Malamud and his family in London eons ago when I was a youngster,” wrote Lydia Davis. “What a happy, positive conjunction!”

Last year’s winner was John Edgar Wideman. Previous winners include Sherman Alexie, John Barth, Richard Bausch, Anne Beattie, Saul Bellow, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Frederick Busch, Peter Ho Davies, Junot Diaz, Andre Dubus, Stuart Dybek, Deborah Eisenberg, Nathan Englander, Richard Ford, Nell Freudenberger, George Garrett, Amina Gautier, Barry Hannah, Adam Haslett, Amy Hempel, Edward P. Jones, Jhumpa Lahiri, Nam Le, Ursula K. Le Guin, Alistair MacLeod, William Maxwell, Maile Meloy, Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates, Cynthia Ozick, Edith Pearlman, James Salter, George Saunders, Joan Silber, Elizabeth Spender, Peter Taylor, John Updike, Eudora Welty, and Tobias Wolff.

About the art of the short story, Bernard Malamud said “I like packing a self or two into a few pages, predicting lifetimes. The drama is terse, happens faster, and is often outlandish. A short story is a way of indicating the complexity of life in a few pages, producing the surprise and effect of a profound knowledge in a short time.”

Davis will be honored at a virtual PEN/Malamud Award Ceremony on Friday, December 4, 2020, held in partnership with American University. Ticket information for the virtual ceremony, which will be open to the public, will be available this fall.

ABOUT THE PEN/MALAMUD AWARD
The PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story was established by Bernard Malamud’s family to honor excellence in the art of short fiction. The basis of the award fund was a generous gift from the Malamud family. The fund continues to grow through the generosity of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s friends and supporters.

The PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story is awarded annually to writers who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in the short story form. Awardees are selected by a committee of writers who serve on the PEN/Faulkner Board of Directors. Nominations are made by committee members as well as by an advisory board of writers.

ABOUT THE PEN/FAULKNER FOUNDATION
The PEN/Faulkner Foundation celebrates literature and fosters connections between readers and writers to inspire and enrich individuals and communities. We are dedicated to the notion that our culture thrives when stories from a diverse variety of perspectives enrich our daily lives and when no voices are excluded from our conversations, and we believe that the written word plays an essential role in contributing to civil discourse and in creating empathy within and among communities.

PEN/Faulkner administers two of the country’s preeminent literary awards: the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the largest peer-juried award for fiction in the United States, and the PEN/Malamud Award, honoring excellence in the short story. In Washington, DC, PEN/Faulkner’s Writers in Schools program brings books and authors into public and public charter school classrooms to inspire the next generation of readers and writers. The organization also curates an annual series of Literary Conversations centered around the work of accomplished authors that are designed to inspire public discourse about deeply relevant subjects.