Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), recently announced that he returned the money he received from the PEN American Center when he won the PEN/Robert Bigham Fellowship last month. The fellowship carries with it a $35,000 annual stipend for two consecutive years.
Responding to criticism on Edward Champion’s blog, edrants.com, that this year’s PEN awards were given to a large number of financially secure authors, Foer wrote, “Just wanted to let you guys know that I completely agree with most everything you said about monetary awards and whom they should go to. That's why I gave the money—every cent of it—back to PEN, which is as deserving as groups get. I didn't make a big deal about it, because it didn't seem fair to any other winners, who might have needed the money at the moment. But on the other hand, I'd had to take flack for something I didn't do.”
The PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship is awarded to a promising fiction writer whose debut novel or short story collection represents a "literary achievement." The other two recipients of this year's fellowships are Will Heinrich (The King's Evil, Scribner, 2003) and Monique Truong (The Book of Salt, Houghton Mifflin, 2003).