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Atticus Lish wins PEN/Faulkner Award

Atticus Lish won the $15,000 PEN/Faulkner Award on Tuesday for his first novel, “Preparation for the Next Life.”

In a statement released Tuesday morning, the judges praised Lish’s novel as a work of fiction that “scours and illuminates the vast, traumatized America that lives, works and loves outside the castle gates. The result is an incantation, a song of ourselves, a shout.”

“Preparation for the Next Life” is about an Iraq War vet who falls in love with a Chinese Muslim immigrant in New York.

The PEN/Faulkner prize — now in its 35th year — is known for its critical independence and its willingness to consider books by small publishers. Although Lish is the son of the famous editor Gordon Lish, he sold this novel to an obscure publisher called Tyrant Books for a mere $2,000 advance. After “Preparation for the Next Life” received positive reviews, Tyrant reportedly had to scramble to print more copies beyond its first run of 3,500.

The novel received special attention from Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington last year when it won the $5,000 Carla Furstenberg Cohen Literary Prize in fiction.

This year’s PEN/Faulkner judges — Alexander Chee, Marc Fitten and Deirdre McNamer — considered 360 American novels and short story collections submitted by 142 publishers.

The PEN/Faulkner Award finalists, who will receive $5,000 each, are:

• Jeffery Renard Allen, “Song of the Shank” (Graywolf).
• Jennifer Clement, “Prayers for the Stolen” (Hogarth).
• Emily St. John Mandel, “Station Eleven” (Knopf).
• Jenny Offill, “Dept. of Speculation” (Knopf).

Lish and the finalists will read from their work at the award ceremony May 2 at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Tickets to the ceremony can be purchased here for $100.