Author of finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award In the Distance and Booker Prize-nominated Trust
About Hernan Diaz
Hernan Diaz is the author of In the Distance, a gorgeously written page-turning epic tale that upends and reinvents the old-school western genre. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner award, this extraordinary novel offers a probing examination of the stereotypes that populate America’s past, following a young Swedish immigrant as he travels through the American frontier in the 1800s, meeting religious fanatics, naturalists, gold miners, and more. In the Distance was a Publishers Weekly Top 10 Book of the Year and a Literary Hub Top 20 Book of the Decade.
Longlisted for the Booker Prize Trust, his latest novel, explores wealth, talent, and the process of accumulation of capital as the readers follow an enigmatic financier in the roaring 1920s. The new spellbinding work is an “intricate, cunning and consistently surprising…exhilarating and intelligent novel.” Diaz illuminates “the impact of money on American’s everyday life and confronts some of our deepest socioeconomic schisms.” According to the Booker Prize citation, “there is a dazzling intelligence behind this novel, which challenges us to rethink everything we know both about the institutions on which nations are built and the narratives by which stories are told. Sly, sophisticated, insistently questioning, Diaz writes with assurance, determined to rob us of every certainty.” It was recently announced that this best-selling novel will be adapted into an HBO limited series starring Kate Winslet.
Hernan Diaz’s work has also appeared in many publications such as The Paris Review, Granta, Playboy, The Yale Review, and McSweeney’s. In his thoughtful conversations at colleges and universities, Diaz discusses the way he theorizes genre, the archival process behind his novels, the relationship between fiction and truth, and the place of foreigners in the conformation of the American canon.
A Guggenheim Fellow and Whiting Award winner, Hernan Diaz has received fellowships from the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars and the Rockefeller Foundation, among other institutions. He holds a Ph.D. from New York University. He is the associate director of the Hispanic Institute for Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University.
In this lecture Hernan Diaz discusses his latest novel, Trust, translated into over twenty languages. By taking the audience on a backstage tour of the intense archival work that went into this book, Diaz revisits and expands on some of the timely issues in the novel: the representation of class and wealth in our literary canon, the place of capital in American literature, the distinction between fiction and truth—and how power consistently blurs the line between them. At the core of this discussion is a reflection on the very nature of literature and how, instead of merely copying reality, it may help shaping it.
In both his novels—In the Distance, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Trust—Hernan Diaz addresses two blind spots in the American canon. The first concerns the territorial establishment of this nation: although many accounts glamorize the brutal expansion west, it took inordinately long for these narratives to coalesce into a genre—and once they did, they were largely marginalized. Not much later, America engaged in another sort of pursuit: a quest for economic supremacy. And though numerous books deal with class, conspicuous consumption, and manners, barely none addresses how money is actually made. These blind spots inspired In the Distance and Trust, respectively. This talk examines both the myths around the consolidation of our territory and the fables shrouding the origins of its wealth—and the connection between history and literature.
Praise for Hernan Diaz
Praise for Trust
Hernan Diaz understands, and deeply, how strange money is, as an omnipotent and imaginary substance that controls our lives. His novel Trust glints with wonder and knowledge and mystery. Its plotlines are as etched and surreal as Art Deco geometry, while inside that architecture are people who feel appallingly real. This novel is very classical and very original: Balzac would be proud, but so would Borges.— Rachel Kushner
Hernan Diaz is a narrative genius whose work easily encompasses both a grand scope and the crisp and whiplike line. Trust builds its world and characters with subtle aplomb. What a radiant, profound and moving novel.
Though set in a historical New York, Trust speaks to matters of the most urgent significance to the present day. Money, power, class, marital and filial relations, the roles played by trust and betrayal in human affairs—Diaz’s development of his chosen themes is deeply insightful. Cleverly constructed and rich in surprises, this splendid novel offers serious ideas and serious pleasures on every beautifully composed page.
That rare jewel of a book—jaw-dropping storytelling against the backdrop of beautiful writing. Amidst all the noise in the world, whole days found me curled up on the couch, lost inside Diaz’s brilliance.— Jacqueline Woodson
The audacity and scope of Hernan Diaz’s extraordinary novel— a prism, a mystery, a revelation—are brilliantly matched by the quality of his prose.— Jean Strouse
In this glorious puzzle of a novel, perspectives keep shifting and the wealth of one early-twentieth-century family keeps changing its origin-story. What a joy this is to read, suspenseful at every turn, the work of a rare and impressive talent. Hernan Diaz has once again taken apart an American myth and pondered how we lie to ourselves.— Joan Silber
Sublime, richly layered novel. A story within a story within a story. Elegantly written . . . This is just sublime.— Roxane Gay
Praise for In the Distance
An affecting oddness is the great virtue of In the Distance, along with its wrenching evocations of its main character’s loneliness and grief. And its ability to create lustrous mindscapes from wide-open spaces, from voids that are never empty.— New York Times
A gorgeously written novel that charts one man’s growth from boyhood to mythic status as he journeys between continents and the extremes of the human condition.— Pulitzer Prizes
Hernan Diaz explores two kinds of wilderness: the immensely taxing newness of the American West and the still-forming interiority of Håkan, a Swedish immigrant desperate to find a way back home. It’s the second that makes the first feel new. He does this in language that can be plainspoken and wildly, even cosmically, evocative. Håkan’s epic journey reminds us how the self is often hammered into existence by pain and longing. In the end the reader understands the country’s twin potential for horror and hope.— Whiting Award Selection Committee
Hernan Diaz’s In the Distance is exquisite: assured, moving, and masterful, as profound and precise an evocation of loneliness as any book I’ve ever read.— Lauren Groff
Diaz cleverly updates an old-fashioned yarn, and his novel is rife with exquisite moments.— Publishers Weekly, (starred review)
While set in the American West, this is no conventional Western, as it turns the genre’s stereotypes upside down, taking place on a frontier as much mythic as real with a main character. . . . Resonant historical fiction with a contemporary feel.— Library Journal, (starred review)
. . . richly drawn and something like Huckleberry Finn written by Cormac McCarthy: an adventure story as well as a meditation on the meaning of home.— The Times
A gritty, dreamy anti-Western Western. This book’s unflinching exposure of our foundational American myths about individualism and violence is so well-executed that it feels nothing short of subversive.— Literary Hub
A page-turning adventure story that’s also a profound meditation on solitude and companionship, foreignness and home; a bildungsroman in the grand 19th-century tradition that is also a fierce critique of the romanticised myths of the settlement of the American west.— The Guardian
A western about the conquest of being.— Le Monde
If I could hand you this book I would. Read this. Hernan Diaz’s In the Distance is a portrait of this country as both a dreamscape and a living nightmare. With echoes of John Williams’s Butcher’s Crossing, Andrey Platonov’s Soul, and Richard Hughes’s A High Wind in Jamaica, this is fiction at its finest—propulsive, unsettling, wildly ambitious, and an unforgettable journey that we will certainly return to in the years to come.— Paul Yoon, author of The Mountain
Hernan Diaz’s strange, absorbing novel In the Distance—the story of Håkan Söderström, a Swedish immigrant whose journey in the American West is fraught with confusion, loss, loneliness and seclusion—upends the romance and mythology of America’s Western experience and rugged individualism.— Star Tribune
Hernan Diaz’s In the Distance will haunt me forever, a narrative that continues to astound me, and I think a near perfect portrayal of aloneness and solitude and deep longing.— The Millions
[In the Distance] is a good old-fashioned yearning of the human spirit, and a beautifully commodious meditation on its absolute unknowability.— Financial Times
An infectious story of one man’s quest for solitude and understanding, In the Distance is a noteworthy, original debut.— The Gazette
Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize 2018, this strange, sinister tale bewitches, making the wild west of America as intense and otherworldly as any dark myth.— The Irish Times
Stitched through with humor, this often-unpredictable novel will keep readers running along with every step of Håkan’s odd escapades.— Booklist
As Diaz, who delights in playful language, lists, and stream-of-consciousness prose, reconstructs [Hawk’s] adventures, he evokes the multicultural nature of westward expansion, in which immigrants did the bulk of the hard labor and suffered the gravest dangers. . . . An ambitious and thoroughly realized work of revisionist historical fiction.— Kirkus
Hernan Diaz can spin plates and crack walnuts at the same time. His dazzling novel is a continually unsettling reinvention of American landscape. He offers the treasure of that weird alienated understanding that comes from being a foreigner with roots in Argentina, Sweden and, of course, New York.— Peter Carey
One of the best books I’ve read all year.— Roxane Gay
Books by Hernan Diaz
Media About Hernan Diaz
- 212 572-2013
- Hernan Diaz travels from New York, New York
Hernan Diaz is a narrative genius whose work easily encompasses both a grand scope and the crisp and whiplike line. Trust builds its world and characters with subtle aplomb. What a radiant, profound and moving novel.–Lauren Groff