Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son (Doubleday) has won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. After last year’s furore when the Pulitzer Prize committee refused to award the prize at all, it is lovely to see such a good book be recognised.
Part-bildungsroman, part-spy thriller, part-expose of the most secretive country in the world, this is the story of a North Korean orphan who rises up through the ranks of the DPRK army as a tunnel soldier, then as a professional kidnapper, a military intelligence officer, ultimately to become a rival to the Dear Leader, Kim Jon Il. It is also a searing love story, possibly, as one character in the novel claims, ‘the greatest North Korean love story ever told‘.
I haven’t read it yet (and we have almost run out of copies so I’ll have to wait for the ones on order to arrive) but a colleague has and he said he loved it: “It’s a real goodie“. He really liked the way that this man, the orphan, could be the North Korean Everyman, experiencing life at every level of North Korean society.
The Pulitzer committee described it thus:”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.”
The other Pulitzer Prize Fiction finalists were: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, by Nathan Englander (Alfred A. Knopf), a diverse yet consistently masterful collection of stories that explore Jewish identity and questions of modern life in ways that can both delight and unsettle the reader; this I have read: it was a fantastic collection of stories, some are so funny and others explore the full darkness of the human condition, all are original and clever and beautifully written. The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown), was the other finalist : an enchanting novel about an older homesteading couple who long for a child amid the harsh wilderness of Alaska and a feral girl who emerges from the woods to bring them hope. I had a go at reading this last year but I wasn’t very interested in the story and wasn’t in the right mood to persist – maybe it will be just what you are looking for…
The other literature prizes? Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar won for Drama; Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America took home the Non-Fiction prize; & Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds was awarded the Poetry Prize.
Congratulations to all, it is nice to have the Fiction Pulitzer back!