Debut The Sympathizer wins Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Debut The Sympathizer wins Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Debut novel The Sympathizer by Vietnam-born Viet Thanh Nguyen has won the 100th annual 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The book, published by American indie Grove Press and by Little, Brown imprint Corsair in the UK, rose victorious in the face of stiff competition including favourite-to-win Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (Picador).

The Sympathizer, set at the end of the Vietnam War, is a "gripping spy novel" and examination of "extreme politics", telling the story of a man "of two minds", someone whose "political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties". 

Born in Vietnam and raised in the US after coming to America as an immigrant in 1975, Nguyen is now a professor of English and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. 

He wrote on Facebook this afternoon in response to the news: "Of course it's wonderful for me to get the Pulitzer Prize. But within minutes of getting it, I knew that I owed tremendous thanks to everyone who has gone before me in the great, ongoing struggle for social justice, for peace, for genuine equality, for representation for all at every level of every society. I think of the enormous debts I owe to everyone who fought for civil rights, for radical power, for economic equity, and how all these issues are inseparable from justice in the literary world. No minority writer, no writer of color, can claim that he or she accomplished anything purely on their own merit. We all owe so much to the collective struggles and activists that preceded us, that laid the foundations for our individual achievement, to everyone lucky enough to be remembered and so many who have been forgotten."

Prizes for the award, recognising achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the US, were handed out at Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

Joby Warrick, a Washington Post reporter, won the non-fiction category for Black Flags: The Rise of Isis (Doubleday) a penetrating insider's account revealing Isis' roots. Meanwhile, winners in the Biography and Poetry categories were Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (Penguin Press) and Ozone Journal by Peter Balakian (University of  Chicago Press), respectively.

Corsair publisher James Gurbutt acquired both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner The Sympathizer and the Pulitzer Prize for Biography winner Barbarian Days as their publisher in the UK. He commented: "Two Pulitzers – not something that happens every day.

"We are thrilled; an extraordinary and original novel, which deserves every accolade it has accumulated since publication culminating in the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It is a great honour for us all to have Viet and The Sympathizer on the list. And equally Barbarian Days, which is absolutely fantastic read; we couldn’t wish for more – a joy to publish."

Hip-hop Broadway musical Hamilton, from writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, meanwhile, won the 2016 Pulitzer prize for drama. The "landmark American musical" - so described by the prize's judges - about America’s founding father Alexander Hamilton, was inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow (Penguin). It is only the ninth musical to have won the prize, ordinarily given to plays.

Miranda tweeted the word "grateful" 15 times in a single tweet in response to the news yesterday evening. He said: "To win today... is beyond my wildest dreams. It is a tremendous honour to even be considered."

The play, a sell-out runaway commercial success as well as criticially acclaimed, has raked in $60m (£41.9m) in advance ticket sales to date, reported the Guardian.