NEW YORK (AP) — Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad,” his celebrated novel about an escaped slave that combined liberating imagination and brutal reality, has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Monday’s announcement confirmed the book as the literary event of 2016, an Oprah Winfrey book club pick and critical favorite which last fall received the National Book Award, the first time in more than 20 years that the same work won the Pulitzer and National Book Award for fiction. Whitehead, known for such explorations of American myth and history as “John Henry Days,” conceived his novel with what he calls a “goofy idea:” Take the so-called Underground Railroad of history, the network of escape routes to freedom, and make it an actual train. He wove his fantasy together with a too-believable story of a young girl’s flight from a plantation.
Whitehead finished “The Underground Railroad” well before Donald Trump’s election but now finds parallels with the present.
“I think the book deals with white supremacy as a foundational error in the country’s history and that foundational error is being played out now in the White House,” he told The Associated Press on Monday. “When I was writing the book I wasn’t thinking about current events, but I think you have to look at it differently now.”MORE