Hernan Diaz wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction!
Hernan Diaz gave a talk at the Free Library of Philadelphia last night (5/8/23). It was an extra-special event because, the previous afternoon, Diaz was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his latest novel, Trust.
Luckily for you, Trust has just been released in paperback (and I know where you can get a copy!). I’ve been a huge fan of the book since it was first published in hardcover in May of 2022.
Trust has an innovative approach, a story told in four parts, each written in a different format: one a memoir, one a novel-within-a-novel, one more straightforward storytelling, and one in the form of journal entries. Taken all together, it plays cleverly with your point-of-view and the reader watches the story change with each telling.
Diaz himself says the book is about money, something he says he see very little being written about in the American canon. (Diaz, btw, was born in Argentina and English is his second language. It is my first language, and would I could use it as fluidly and elegantly as he does!). He says he sees plenty of books about rich people, from Edith Wharton and Henry James through F. Scott Fitzgerald and right on through to Bret Easton Ellis. But the making of the money, he says, is not in the stories. The money is already a given as a presence in the story. We see how it affects people, but not how it came to be in the first place.
So much for the rags-to-riches mythos. So he set out to correct that in Trust, a novel whose multi-layered title has multiple meanings, from the urging to trust the storyteller (should we?), to the meaning as the word is used in the world of finance. It is that world in which the book is set, as we look at the story of a fictional early 20th century financier and his wife.
Diaz described the intensive research he did for the novel, reading many books and reading through troves of letters and personal papers of real-life financiers and, more significantly, their wives, whose papers, he said, were rarely catalogued and were recorded by means of how big the collections were, literally, i.e. how much space they took up. A collection could be six feet, for example.
And in this research, he found, and then wrote about, what he calls “the evanescent border between the discursive realities of fiction and history.” (see what I mean?) And much of what he found in his research he refers to as “textual shrapnel,” due to its scattered existence.
Diaz describes his love of language and writing, something he says he has been doing all of his life, and although Trust is only his second published novel, he claims to have plenty of rejected novels tucked away. “I’m in it for the sentences,” he says of his love of language. He explains further: “Our first piece of technology is the sentence.”
I’ve never heard language described like that, but I thrilled to the valuation of a sentence as an essential technological tool with which we carve out our lives.
If you haven’t already, you want to read this book. Trust me!