Walker Percy

28 May 1916
10 May 1990
Philosopher
Offer Flowers
Light a Candle
Pray for the soul
Seek Blessings

Walker Percy, Obl.S.B. (May 28, 1916 – May 10, 1990) was an American author from Covington, Louisiana, whose interests included philosophy and semiotics. Percy is known for his philosophical novels set in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, the first of which, The Moviegoer, won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.He devoted his literary life to the exploration of “the dislocation of man in the modern age.”His work displays a combination of existential questioning, Southern sensibility, and deep Catholic faith.

Percy’s literary career as a “Catholic writer” began in 1956, with an essay about race in the Catholic magazine Commonweal.The essay, “Stoicism in the South,” condemned Southern segregation and demanded a larger role for Christian thought in Southern life.

Percy taught and mentored younger writers. While teaching at Loyola University of New Orleans, he was instrumental in getting John Kennedy Toole’s novel A Confederacy of Dunces published in 1980. This was more than a decade after Toole committed suicide, despondent about being unable to get recognition for his book. Set in New Orleans, it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, which was posthumously awarded to Toole. In 1987 Percy, along with 21 other noted authors, met in Chattanooga, Tennessee to create the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

In 1985, Percy was awarded the St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates.

In 1989, the University of Notre Dame awarded Percy its Laetare Medal, which is bestowed annually to a Catholic “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church, and enriched the heritage of humanity.”

Also in 1989, the National Endowment for the Humanities chose him as the winner for the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities. He read his essay, “The Fateful Rift: The San Andreas Fault in the Modern Mind.”

Novels

  • The Moviegoer. New York: Knopf, 1961; reprinted Avon, 1980 — winner of the National Book Award
  • The Last Gentleman. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1966; reprinted Avon, 1978.
  • Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1971; reprinted Avon, 1978.
  • Lancelot. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1977.
  • The Second Coming. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1980.
  • The Thanatos Syndrome. New York: Farrar, Straus, 1987.

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