For only the sixth time in the history of the Pulitzer Prize, a collection of short stories surfaced in the year 2000 to win the prestigious award for fiction -- Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies.The award comes at the beginning of 32-year-old Lahiri's career, as Interpreter of Maladies is her first published collected work.
The Pulitzer Prize awards were introduced in 1917 and for the first 30 years, the award for literary works of fiction was given under the title "Novel." Despite such title, in 1966, the Pulitzer Prize was bestowed upon Katherine Anne Porter's Collected Stories.
This award, the first given to a collection of stories, came at the end of this writer's career -- Porter was 76-years-old at the time. In the book, The Pulitzer Prize Archive, Heinz-Dietrich Fischer quotes John Hohenberg on this decision by the Pulitzer jury at that time: "...(it is) a commentary on the state of the American novel when a book of short stories was selected for the fiction award in the fiftieth year of the Pulitzer Prizes."
Luckily, times have changed since that first award to Porter's Collected Stories, and the title of the Pulitzer literary award has changed from that of "Novel" to "Fiction," thus allowing short story collections since that time to vie for the award on equal ground with novels. No longer are outcries heard over the state of the novel when a short story collection wins the Pulitzer as has been witnessed with regard to Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, for which the only outcry heard was that of brilliance.