Don DeLillo, author of such critically acclaimed novels as “Underworld,” “Mao II” and the National Book Award-winning “White Noise,” received the first Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction during the 2013 Library of Congress National Book Festival.
This inaugural award was inspired by a prior award the Library made for lifetime achievement in the writing of fiction – presented to Pulitzer Prize-winner Herman Wouk in 2008. DeLillo follows in the path of four subsequent winners of the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for fiction in connection with the Library’s National Book Festival: John Grisham (2009), Isabel Allende (2010), Toni Morrison (2011) and Philip Roth (2012).
“Like Dostoyevsky, Don DeLillo probes deeply into the sociopolitical and moral life of his country,” said Billington. “Over a long and important career, he has inspired his readers with the diversity of his themes and the virtuosity of his prose.”
“When I received news of this award, my first thoughts were of my mother and father, who came to this country the hard way, as young people confronting a new language and culture,” said DeLillo. “In a significant sense, the Library of Congress prize is the culmination of their efforts and a tribute to their memory.”
The annual Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction is meant to honor an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but also for its originality of thought and imagination. The award seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that, throughout long, consistently accomplished careers, have told us something about the American experience.
Don DeLillo is one of America’s most celebrated writers. He has received the National Book Award (“White Noise,” 1985), a PEN/Faulkner Award (“Mao II,” 1992) and the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction (2010), among many other accolades. In 2006, The New York Times asked several hundred well-known writers, critics, editors and other knowledgeable parties to identify “the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.” DeLillo’s 1997 novel, “Underworld,” was No. 2 on the list. “White Noise” and his 1988 novel, “Libra,” were also named. In 1979, DeLillo was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.