"The Chaneysville Incident" by David Bradley has won the PEN/Faulkner Award for the best American work of fiction published in 1981.
The 31-year-old black author accepted the $5,000 award at ceremonies last night in the Rotunda of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. "I feel wonderful," he said before the presentation. "I really feel good for the book," which earlier in the week had also won a $5,000 Award in Literature from the National Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Bradley, who teaches creative writing at Temple University in Philadelphia, spent more than 10 years researching and writing the novel, published by Harper & Row, which traces five generations of a black family from slavery through the underground railroad to the war in Vietnam.
A native of Bedford, Pa., Bradley received a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. from Kings College, University of London. He lived briefly in Europe and returned to the United States to work for the J.B. Lippincott publishing company before joining the Temple faculty in 1976. He has written one other novel, "South Street" (1975), contributed numerous articles to magazines including Esquire, Signature and Savvy, and written book reviews for The Washington Post.
The PEN/Faulkner Award, sponsored by PEN, the international writers' organization, and the PEN South chapter, is the nation's only major literary prize judged, administered and partly funded by writers. Originated as a replacement for the now-defunct National Book Awards, it was first given in 1981 to Walter Abish for his novel, "How German Is It."
In February, judges Walker Percy, John Hawkes and Wesley Brown announced five other nominees for this year's award: Donald Barthelme, Richard Bausch, Mark Helprin, Marilynne Robinson and Robert Stone, each of whom received $1,000 at last night's ceremony.