Fiona Benson Wins Forward Poetry Prize

Fiona Benson’s Vertigo & Ghost is the winner of this year’s prestigious £10,000 Forward prize for best poetry collection. This pulls the violence of Greek myths into the #MeToo era and explores female fear, desire and ferocity, while rebranding the god Zeus as a serial rapist. Shahidha Bari, the chair of the judges, called it “a work of unfaltering determination and self-inspection. It is an exhilarating collection that pulses with fury, fear and defiance – and enduring hope too.”

In addition to the Forward Poetry Prize, we are also delighted to hear that Benson’s Vertigo & Ghost has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize for poetry.

Olga Tokarczuk Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Having won last year’s International Booker Prize along with her translator Jennifer Croft, we are delighted to announce that Olga Tokarczuk has now been presented the Nobel Prize in Literature 2018.

Tokarczuk says in this statement that:

“I first learned that I had won the Nobel prize in the oddest circumstances – on the motorway, somewhere “In Between”, at a place with no name. I can’t think of a better metaphor to define the world we’re living in today. Nowadays we writers are having to confront ever more improbable challenges, and yet literature is a slow-moving art – the lengthy process of writing makes it difficult to catch the world in the act. I often wonder if it’s still possible to describe the world at all, or if we’re already too helpless in the face of its increasingly fluid shape, the dissolving of fixed points and disappearing values. I believe in a literature that unites people and shows us how very similar we are, that makes us aware of the fact that we’re all joined together by invisible threads. That tells the story of the world as if it were a living and unified whole, constantly developing before our eyes, in which we are just a small but at the same time powerful part. My congratulations to Peter Handke for his Nobel prize. I’m very pleased that we both come from the same part of the world.”

— Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones and Jennifer Croft.

Tokarczuk’s The Book of Jacob is published in English in late 2020 or early 2021 by Riverhead, again translated by Jennifer Croft, translator of Flights.

Dixie Chicken

From the award-winning author of The Men who Loved Evelyn Cotton, this is a novel in which God plays narrator, death is the mystery and sex the possible key. When the successful and adored Rory Dixon’s car goes over a cliff into the Irish Sea, his wife Helen is convinced he has been murdered.

A journey through a landscape that includes incest, adolescent despair, drug abuse, suicide fixation, sex killers, corrupt politicians, repulsive old lechers, necrophiliacs, unfrocked priests and corpses dripping blood through the drawing room ceiling into guests’ wine glasses.


Robin Robertson wins Walter Scott Prize for The Long Take

We are delighted to announce that The Long Take by Robin Robertson has won the tenth Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, becoming both the first Scot and the first poet to win the prize.

Accepting his Prize from writer Alexander McCall Smith and the Prize’s sponsor the Duke of Buccleuch at the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival on Saturday 15thJune, Robin Robertson said that, like Walter Scott, he had started as a poet and then moved into narrative fiction ‘by accident’, as The Long Take started as a poem but became something longer.

The Judges said:

“It’s ten years since the spectacular inauguration of the Walter Scott Prize, with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall our first winner. The Prize was founded both to acknowledge the part historical fiction plays in our literary landscape, and to broaden and deepen the meaning of the term ‘historical fiction’ itself. Since then, many of the finest writers in English have explored historical themes in increasingly original ways, making the task of choosing a winner ever more difficult.

“It seems right that in our tenth anniversary year we should celebrate this originality by awarding the prize to a novel written in compelling narrative verse.The prize is always hard-fought and this year was no exception, but this novel exerted a very particular magnetic force, drawing us back again and again, each time marvelling anew.

The Long Take recounts the inner journey of Canadian veteran Walker as he travels from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco attempting to rebuild his life after living through the horrors of war in Europe. In poetry of the          utmost beauty, Robin Robertson interweaves themes from the great age of black and white films, the destruction of communities as cities destroy the old to build the new, the horrors of McCarthyism and the terrible psychological wounds left by war.

“Robertson shows us things we’d rather not see and asks us to face things we’d rather not face. But with the pulsing narrative drive of classic film noir, the vision of a poet, and the craft of a novelist, The Long Take courageously and magnificently boosts the Walter Scott Prize into its next decade.”

For more information, please see here.

Agent for Robin Robertson: Peter Straus

Ondaatje prize: Aida Edemariam wins for vivid biography of her grandmother

Guardian journalist’s The Wife’s Tale takes the £10,000 Royal Society of Literature award for a work best evoking ‘spirit of a place’.

Aida Edemariam’s The Wife’s Tale, a biography of her grandmother who was born in northern Ethiopia more than 100 years ago and married at the age of eight, has won the £10,000 RSL Ondaatje prize.

Given to a work of literature that best evokes the “spirit of a place”, the Royal Society of Literature award counts Edmund de Waal’s The Hare With Amber Eyes and Alan Johnson’s This Boy among its former winners. Edemariam, a Guardian journalist, beat titles including Sarah Moss’s conjuring of iron age Northumberland, Ghost Wall, and Adam Weymouth’s travelogue, Kings of the Yukon, to this year’s prize.

Telling the story of the life of her paternal grandmother, Yetemegnu, The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History draws from research and Edemariam’s interviews with Yetemegnu to write what Ondaatje prize judge and novelist Michèle Roberts described as a mix of “memoir, oral history, fiction and snatches of prayer”. The story moves from Yetemegnu’s birth to her marriage to a cleric and poet two decades older than her, through fascist occupation, the rise and fall of ruler Haile Selassie, revolution and civil war. She died in 2013 at the age of 97.

The biography is a “beautiful, complicated [and] sensual account”, says Roberts. “Her original form and newly minted language create a strong, delicate structure embodying her grandmother’s spirit and will to survive.”

Fellow judge Sabrina Mahfouz said Edemariam’s writing “pulses spectacularly with heart and soul, vividly depicting one inimitable woman centred within the swirling winds of politics, religion, patriotism and change”.

(Agent for Aida Edamariam: Peter Straus).