Adam Johnson, associate professor of English at Stanford, won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel, "The Orphan Master's Son."
The book, set in North Korea under the rule of Kim Jong Il, details the life of "The Orphan Master's Son," or Jun Do, a government-sanctioned kidnapper whose story is deeply affected by the totalitarian nation he lives in.
The Pulitzer committee called Johnson's book "an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart."
Johnson, who has been teaching at Stanford since 1999, spent several years conducting in-depth research to write the book, visiting cities such as Pyongyang, Kaesong City, Panmunjom and Myohyangsan and reading historical books, agricultural information and North Korean propaganda. He also read personal testimonies of gulag (prison camp) survivors and people who managed to escape or visit the isolated country.
"Much is written about the political, military, and economic aspects of the (Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea), but it was always the personal dimension that interested me. I wondered how families huddled under such repression and how people maintained their identities against the tide of propaganda, and whether lovers, despite the dangers, shared their intimate thoughts," Johnson wrote in an interview with his editor at the end of the book. "So, from the beginning, my goal in this book was to create a single character that felt fully human to me."
"The Orphan Master's Son" is Johnson's third book, following "Emporium," a collection of short stories, and the novel "Parasites Like Us," which won a California Book Award. His book has been translated into 16 languages.
Johnson's fiction writing has also been published in Esquire, Harper's, Playboy, Paris Review, Granta, Tin House and Best American Short Stories.
His current courses include "Fiction," "Narrative and Narrative Theory," "Advanced Fiction Writing" as well as a graduate fiction workshop and a senior seminar on historical fiction.
Eavan Boland, director of Stanford's Creative Writing Program and poetry professor, said how excited -- but not surprised -- she and her colleagues are.
"This is a wonderful recognition for a wonderful achievement," Boland stated in a press release. "And he has so many admirers and friends in this program who will be absolutely delighted and not at all surprised."
Johnson's award is the first since 2011; no Pulitzer Prize for fiction was awarded in 2012. Last year was the first time no award had been given in fiction since 1977. The 2011 award went to San Francisco-raised author Jennifer Egan for her novel "A Visit From the Goon Squad."