Benfey has won the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award, which is given to a writer whose work merits recognition for the quality of its prose style and brings with it a $10,000 prize.
"Of course, it’s rather overwhelming news,” said Benfey. “The intimidating list of previous winners includes intellectual heroes of mine like Oliver Sacks and the historian Peter Brown, as well as writers I hugely admire from my own generation, including Darryl Pinckney, Ann Patchett, and Tom Mallon."
The awards will be presented in May at the Academy's annual ceremonial in New York. The literature prizes, totaling $175,000, honor both established and emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The Academy's 250 members nominate candidates and a rotating committee of writers selects the winners.
Last year, Benfey was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.