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Book Award Winners Announced

“Sabbath’s Theater,” Philip Roth’s novel about an aging, libidinous ex-puppeteer whose mistress’ death triggers a turbulent journey into his past, beat out four other finalists this week to win this year’s National Book Award for fiction.

The awards, publishing’s equivalent of the Oscars, were presented Wednesday.

In nonfiction, the winner was Tina Rosenberg for “The Haunted Land: Facing Europe’s Ghosts After Communism,” a look at Germany, Poland and the Czech and Slovak republics as they confront their Communist pasts.

And Stanley Kunitz won the poetry award for for “Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected,” his ninth collection, which focuses on themes of nature, love and loss.

The prestigious awards, which carry $10,000 prizes, are given each year for books by American citizens that were published in the United States in the last 12 months.

David McCullough, the author of six widely acclaimed works of history and biography, including “Mornings on Horseback” and “Truman,” received the 1995 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

The other finalists in the fiction category were Madison Smartt Bell’s “All Souls’ Rising,” Edwidge Danticat’s “Krik? Krak!” Stephen Dixon’s “Interstate” and Rosario Ferre’s “House on The Lagoon.”

The other finalists in the nonfiction category were Dennis Covington for “Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia,” Daniel C. Dennett for “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life,” Jonathan Harr for “A Civil Action,” and Maryanne Vollers for “Ghosts of Mississippi: The Murder of Medgar Evers, the Trials of Byron De La Beckwith, and the Haunting of the New South.”

The other finalists for the poetry prize were Barbara Howes for “Collected Poems, 1945-1990,” Josephine Jacobsen for “In the Crevice of Time: New and Collected Poems,” Donald Justice for “New and Selected Poems,” and Gary Soto for “New and Selected Poems.”