This year’s Pulitzer Prize winners for Books, Drama and Music were announced on Monday in New York City.
The Pulitzer Prizes, administered by Columbia University, have been honouring excellence in journalism and the arts since 1917. This year there were seven awards given out to the arts by the Pulitzer Foundation.
In the Books category, Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son won the Pulitzer for fiction. The story of a young man, Jun Do, and his passage through the prison camps and dictatorship of North Korea, the book was written after a visit Johnson made to North Korea and years of research on the country. The Pulitzer Prize Board called the novel, “an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart.”
Johnson, an associate professor of English at Stanford University, said he felt very fortunate to win the prize and hoped it would raise awareness of what life is like in the country. Speaking to the Stanford News, he said “Through my research, I came to care very deeply about the people of North Korea… People thought I was crazy to be writing on North Korea. They said ‘You’re just some dude in California!’ But one of the things I discovered through my research is that most North Koreans can’t tell their story. It’s important for others to hear it, though. So I had a sense of mission to speak about the topic.”
Johnson’s win follows a year without the Prize for fiction being awarded in 2012. According to the Prize’s Plan of Award, ‘if in any year all competitors in any category shall fail to gain a majority vote of the Pulitzer Prize Board, the prize or prizes may be withheld’.
Other awards in the Books category for 2013 include Fredrik Logevall’s look at how the US ended up in the Vietnam War in Embers of War. Winning the award for history, Logevall’s research follows the forty-year path that led the US from World War I to the first American casualties in 1959. Tom Reiss’ The Black Count, an account of the true story of General Alex Dumas, the real Count of Monte Cristo, won him the biography Pulitzer. Devil in the Grove, a gripping true story of racism, murder, rape, and the law bringing to light one of the most dramatic court cases in American history, and offering a rare and revealing portrait of US Supreme Court judge, Thurgood Marshall, won Gilbert King the award for general nonfiction. Sharon Olds won the poetry prize for Stag’s Leap.
The Music prize was awarded to Princeton graduate student and New York musician, Caroline Shaw for her piece “Partita for 8 Voices”. A member of the vocal quartet, Roomful of Teeth, Shaw wrote the four-part suite for the group. Shaw describes “Partita” as “a simple piece. Born of a love of surface and structure, of the human voice, of dancing and tired ligaments, of music”. The Board found it to be “a highly polished and inventive a cappella work uniquely embracing speech, whispers, sighs, murmurs, wordless melodies and novel vocal effects.” A recording from the premiere performance of the fourth part ‘Passacaglia’ at Mass MoCA in 2009 can be seen below:
The Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded to Ayad Akhtar’s debut play, Disgraced. The play tackles racism, Islamophobia and sexism and takes place around an out of control dinner party put on by successful Pakistani-American lawyer, Amir Kapoor.
All winners in these categories receive a $10,000 cash award and a certificate.