Sigrid Nunez’s “The Friend,” a meditative novel about grief, books and, not least, a Great Dane named Apollo, has won the National Book Award for fiction.
Other winners Wednesday included Jeffrey C. Stewart’s “The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke” for nonfiction and Justin Philip Reed’s “Indecency” for poetry.
On a night when those honored had roots throughout the world, from Peru to Japan, Elizabeth Acevedo’s “The Poet X” won for young people’s literature, and Yoko Tawada’s “The Emissary,” translated by Margaret Mitsutani, won for translation, a category newly revived.
Nunez, author of such previous novels as “Salvation City” and “The Last of Her Kind,” noted in her acceptance speech that she didn’t seek community when she became a writer, but unexpectedly found it.
“I thought it (writing) was something I could do alone and hidden, in the privacy of my own room,” she said. “How lucky to have discovered that writing books made the miraculous possible, to be removed from the world and be part of the world at the same time.
“And tonight how happy I am to feel a part of the world.”
Judges, who include writers, critics and other members of the literary community, chose from more than 1,600 books submitted by publishers when considering the awards. Winners in the competitive categories each receive $10,000. In translation, the prize money is divided between the author and translator.
Honorary medals were presented to novelist Isabel Allende and to Doron Weber of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Parks and Recreation” actor Nick Offerman hosted the ceremony and benefit dinner in Manhattan, presented by the National Book Foundation.