No fiction award by Pulitzer Prize judges in 2012

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The 2012 Pulitzer Prize for fiction went to no one, it was announced Monday. The Pulitzer judges did reveal that three books had been named finalists, but declined to award one the prize.

The three finalists were ‘Train Dreams’ by Denis Johnson, ‘Swamplandia!’ by Karen Russell and ‘The Pale King’ by the late David Foster Wallace.


In deciding the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, a committee of readers, which changes annually, recommends a small slate of titles to a panel of judges, who choose the winner.

‘The three books were fully considered, but in the end, nonemustered the mandatory majority for granting a prize, so no prize was awarded,’ said Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, declining to go into further detail. ‘This is the 11th time this has happened in the fiction category; the last time was 1977. It’s unusual, but it does occur.’

On occasion, the decision not to award the fiction prize has been marked by controversy. In 1941, the committee’s recommendation of ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Ernest Hemingway was deemed offensive by the president of Columbia University, and no award was given.

Other book prizes were awarded by the committee. The Pulitzer for biography went to John Lewis Gaddis for ‘George F. Kennan: An American Life’; the prize for history went to ‘Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention’ by Manning Marable; the Pulitzer for general nonfiction went to ‘The Swerve: How the World Became Modern’ by Stephen Greenblatt; and the award for poetry went to Tracy K. Smith for ‘Life on Mars.’


2011: Jennifer Egan, Siddhartha Mukherjee and Kay Ryan win writing Pulitzer Prizes


Guggenheim announces 2012 fellows

2010: Pulitzer Prizes announced

— Carolyn Kellogg