Annal: 2005 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Results of the PEN/Faulkner Award in the year 2005.

Book:War Trash

War Trash: A novel

Ha Jin

War Trash, the extraordinary new novel by the National Book Award–winning author of Waiting, is Ha Jin’s most ambitious work to date: a powerful, unflinching story that opens a window on an unknown aspect of a little-known war—the experiences of Chinese POWs held by Americans during the Korean conflict—and paints an intimate portrait of conformity and dissent against a sweeping canvas of confrontation.

Set in 1951–53, War Trash takes the form of the memoir of Yu Yuan, a young Chinese army officer, one of a corps of “volunteers” sent by Mao to help shore up the Communist side in Korea. When Yu is captured, his command of English thrusts him into the role of unofficial interpreter in the psychological warfare that defines the POW camp.

Taking us behind the barbed wire, Ha Jin draws on true historical accounts to render the complex world the prisoners inhabit—a…[more]

Book:The Dew Breaker

The Dew Breaker

Edwidge Danticat

From the universally acclaimed author of Breath, Eyes, Memory and Krik? Krak!, a brilliant, deeply moving work of fiction that explores the world of a “dew breaker”—a torturer—a man whose brutal crimes in the country of his birth lie hidden beneath his new American reality. We meet him late in his life. He is a quiet man, a husband and father, a hardworking barber, a kindly landlord to the men who live in a basement apartment in his home. He is a fixture in his Brooklyn neighborhood, recognizable by the terrifying scar on his face. As the book unfolds, moving seamlessly between Haiti in the 1960s and New York City today, we enter the lives of those around him: his devoted wife and rebellious daughter; his sometimes unsuspecting, sometimes apprehensive neighbors, tenants, and clients. And we meet some of his victims. In the book’s powerful denouement, we return to the Haiti of the dew breaker’s past, to his last, desperate act of violence, and to his first encounter with the woman who will…[more]

Book:Gilead

Gilead: A Novel

Marilynne Robinson

In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames’s life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowan preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition: He “preached men into the Civil War,” then, at age fifty, became a chaplain in the Union Army, losing his right eye in battle. Reverend Ames writes to his son about the tension between his father—an ardent pacifist—and his grandfather, whose pistol and bloody shirts, concealed in an army blanket, may be relics from the fight between the abolitionists and those settlers who wanted to vote Kansas into the union as a slave state. And he tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton, his best friend’s wayward son. …[more]

Book:The Green Lantern

The Green Lantern: A Romance of Stalinist Russia

Jerome Charyn

A theater troupe dares to put on Shakespeare’s King Lear, and shortly before the performance, the actor playing the title role falls ill. The prop manager, a lumbering, largely silent bear of a man—completely inappropriate for the part, according to common perception—finds himself literally thrust into the spotlight. His performance becomes the talk of Moscow, and he falls under the direct scrutiny of Joseph Stalin, who controls whether the show will proceed and the actors will live to give another performance.

An audacious winter’s tale, The Green Lantern is an exploration of Shakespeare, the Soviet Union, and what it is to “perform,” by one of the great America writers.

Book:Prisoners of War

Prisoners of War

Steve Yarbrough

Set in a Mississippi farming town, Steve Yarbrough’s new novel is—as the Washington Post said of his Visible Spirits—a “skillful interweaving of complicated relationships to family and history,” here related in a story of wars both global and local, and the prisoners of each.

In 1943, Dan Timms awaits being drafted away from the memory of his father’s recent suicide, the guilt and sorrow of his mother, and the protection of his enterprising uncle, for whom he and a young black man called L.C. drive a “rolling store” through the Delta, its plantations now worked by German soldiers whose fighting days are over. As they would seem to be for Dan’s friend Marty Stark, returned mysteriously from the front and reassigned to guard men he had been trained to kill. But for L.C., a danger more immediate than the one looming overseas is the society into which he was born… …[more]

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