Zadie Smith to receive PEN America literary service award

Smith is the youngest ever recipient of the literary prize.

Author Zadie Smith is this year’s winner of the PEN/Audible Literary Service Award, an honor previously given to Toni Morrison, Stephen Sondheim and Margaret Atwood among others.

The PEN literary award is presented to “an important writer whose work has drawn a wide audience and who helps us understand the human condition in original and powerful ways.”

ROME, ITALY – OCTOBER 17: Zadie Smith attends the “Zadie Smith” close encounter during the 16th Rome Film Fest 2021 on October 17, 2021 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images for RFF)

Smith, 46, the youngest ever recipient of the literary prize, is known for novels “White Teeth” and “NW” and such essay collections as “Changing My Mind” and “Intimations.” She recently contributed the introduction to a stand-alone book edition of Morrison’s short story “Recitatif.”

“Zadie Smith’s impact cannot be understated,” PEN America President Ayad Akhtar said in a statement Friday.

“She is not just one of contemporary fiction’s most groundbreaking voices, but also amongst our most insightful critical minds. Her considerable influence only seems to grow ever more far-reaching with time,” Akhtar continued.

Smith will be among the guests May 23 at PEN America’s annual literary gala, to be held in Manhattan at the Museum of Natural History. Others receiving awards will include Audible founder Donald Katz, cited by PEN as this year’s Business Visionary Honoree.

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