LGBT Cultural Pioneer Edmund White and Irish Novelist Edna O’Brien to be Honored for Lifetime Achievement

PEN America announced last week that it will honor author and LGBT cultural pioneer Edmund White with the annual PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

White at the 2011 Brooklyn Book Festival courtesy of David Shankbone under CC BY 3.0

EDMUND WHITE  (b. 1940) is an American novelist, memoirist, and an essayist on literary and social topics. Much of his writing is on the theme of same-sex love. His books include The Joy of Gay Sex (1977) (written with Charles Silverstein, a writer, therapist, lecturer and gay activist), his trio of autobiographic novels, A Boy’s Own Story (1982), The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988) and The Farewell Symphony (1997), and his biography of Jean Genet. His website is HERE.  His Amazon page is HERE.

If you are viewing this from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to the site to watch this video.


The 2018 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature will go to the extraordinarily prolific Irish novelist Edna O’Brien, whose acclaimed work broke down social and sexual barriers for women in Ireland and elsewhere.

Edna O’Brien at Hay Festival 2016 courtesy of Andrew Lih under CC BY-SA 3.0

EDNA O’BRIEN, DBE (b. 1930) is an Irish novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet and short story writer. Philip Roth described her “the most gifted woman now writing in English”, while the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, cited her as “one of the great creative writers of her generation”.

O’Brien’s works often revolve around the inner feelings of women, and their problems in relating to men, and to society as a whole.Her first novel, The Country Girls, is often credited with breaking silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following World War II.The book was banned, burned and denounced from the pulpit, and O’Brien left Ireland behind.

O’Brien  received the Irish PEN Award in 2001. Saints and Sinners won the 2011 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the world’s richest prize for a short story collection. Faber and Faber published her memoir, Country Girl, in 2012.  Her Faber & Faber author’s page is HERE. Her Amazon page is HERE.

If you are viewing this from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to the site to watch this video.


PEN America will also honor:

  • poet Kamau Brathwaite with the PEN/ Voelcker Award,
  • translator Barbara Harshav with the PEN/ Manheim Medal for Translation, and
  • author Dave Kindred with the PEN/ ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing.

The PEN/ Laura Pels Foundation for Theater Awards will be conferred on playwrights:

  • Luis Alfaro for Master American Dramatist,
  • Sibyl Kempson for American Dramatist in Mid-Career, and
  • Mike Lew for Emerging American Playwright.

White, O’Brien, and PEN America’s other career achievement award winners will accept their prizes at the 2018 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, February 20, at the NYU Skirball Center near Washington Square Park. Featuring readings, performances, and edge-of-your-seat live announcements of the winners for the year’s prizes, this annual celebration of literature and free expression has become one the city’s premier literary events drawing the biggest names and the hottest new voices in literature. Special guests, finalists, and presenters in attendance will include:

  • Tanwi Nandini Islam
  • Yahdon Israel
  • Hari Kunzru
  • Victor LaValle
  • Colum McCann
  • Lynn Nottage
  • Philip Roth
  • Layli Long Soldier
  • Monique Truong
  • Kevin Young
  • David Zirin
    … and many more

Hosted by author, social activist, and political commentator
Sally Kohn

A full list of finalists for the 2018 PEN America Literary Awards is available HERE . All book award winners will be announced at the ceremony. Purchase tickets HERE. I understand that this is the first year tickets are being made available to the general public. Student tickets are discounted.


Compiled with thanks to PEN America, White’s website, Faber & Faber, Wikipedia and Amazon.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


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