In 1999, Don DeLillo, considered one of the leading candidates for the Nobel Prize for Literature, was the first American recipient of the Jerusalem Prize, an award given biennially to a writer whose body of work expresses the theme of an individual's freedom in society. The award's jury characterized DeLillo’s work as a “commitment to exposing, through his daring writing, the violent face of the Western world at the end of the century” and as “an unrelenting struggle against even the most sophisticated forms of repression of individual and public freedom during the last half of the century." DeLillo has said that writers “must oppose systems. It's important to write against power, corporations, the state, and the whole system of consumption and of debilitating entertainments." Indeed, as John Duvall suggests, DeLillo has spent a career challenging systems such as “multinational capitalism and its manipulation of the image through media and advertising to construct first-world identity via the individual's acts of consumption.”
Since 1971, with the publication of his first novel Americana to his most recent novel, Zero K (2016), DeLillo has earned a reputation for being a supreme prose stylist, a novelist with an uncanny prescience for the movements of American culture, and a notoriously publicity-shy figure. His many awards and reviews speak to his critical and popular acclaim. With the publication in 1985 of White Noise he gained widespread recognition, winning the National Book Award that year. He followed that novel in 1988 with Libra, a bestseller based on the Kennedy assassination and the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, which won the prestigious Aer Lingus / Irish Times International Fiction Prize. In 1992, DeLillo published Mao II, for which he won the PEN/Faulkner Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 1997, he published his monumental novel Underworld, also a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award. His collection of short stories, The Angel Esmeralda (2012), also received a PEN/Faulkner Award nomination. In 2010, he was awarded the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, and in 2013, he won the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.