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Pulitzer Prize for Fiction not awarded

17th April 2012

For the first time in 35 years, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction has not been awarded, after the board failed to reach a unanimous decision on who should win the USD 10,000 (GBP 6,300) award.

The three-strong shortlist included David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, Karen Russell's Swamplandia and Denis Johnson's novella Train Dreams, with each title nominated by a committee comprising book editor Susan Larson, critic Maureen Corrigan and novelist Michael Cunningham.

However, Pulitzer Prize administrator Sig Gissler said the panel could not agree on one work.

'Thus, after lengthy consideration, no prize was awarded. There were multiple factors involved in these decisions, and we don't discuss in detail why a prize is given or not given,' he added.

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is highly regarded around the world and considered to be as significant as the Nobel Prize for Literature in terms of influencing people's reading habits and buying decisions.

It is the tenth time the prize has not been awarded but the first since 1977 – something that disappointed Paul Bogaards, director of publicity at Alfred A. Knopf, the publisher of Swamplandia.

'It's the most significant award in American letters and it's a shame the jury couldn't find a work of fiction this year. The Pulitzer makes sales. It's a prize that can change the career trajectory of a writer,' he added.

However, this view was not held by Michael Pietsch from Little, Brown and Company, the editor of The Pale King.

'It's wonderful that the Pulitzer nominating committee recommended The Pale King to the judges. Anything that brings the readers to David's brilliant novels, especially his great novel Infinite Jest, is a good thing,' he stated.

There was joy for other writers, however, with Stephen Greenblatt scooping the general non-fiction prize for The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began and Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis receiving the biography award for George F. Kennan: An American Life.

The poetry award was presented to Tracy K. Smith for her collection Life on Mars, while the history prize was posthumously awarded to Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention author Manning Marable, who died on the eve of the book's publication.

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