James Tait Black Prize 2012

The prizes (one for fiction and the other for biography) will be awarded this Saturday, 25 August, at the Edinburgh Book Festival – as usual. The shortlist can be found here (University of Edinburgh website) and includes the late American Pulitzer-winner Manning Marable’s biography of Malcom X.

I’ll report back on the outcome of the prize ceremony on Saturday, but I thought it worth noting a special prize which has been launched to to coincide with this year’s 250th anniversary of the study of English Literature at the University of Edinburgh (this website gives an idea of the fantastic series of events that have been organised so far).

On Saturday, a shortlist will be announced for the “Best of the James Tait Black” prize.  Unlike the annual prize, this will only be awarded for fiction and the shortlisted authors will be selected from the prize-winners of the past 93 years.

When I last wrote about the James Tait Black Prize (you can see my blog post here), I mentioned a few of the past winners, but the scope is truly immense. The University of Edinburgh has awarded the prizes since 1919.  You can find the full list of prizewinners for the fiction prize here and it includes authors of the stature of DH Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Iris Murdoch, John Banville, Nadine Gordimer, Salman Rushdie, Beryl Bainbridge… it’s quite a reading list!  I don’t know if there is a criterion for selecting a winner from each decade (so nine shortlisted authors), but in general I expect the judging process will be the same: the books are read by a panel of postgrad English students and then the final selection is made by the current senior staff responsible for the prize, Dr Lee Spinks and Dr Jonathan Wild.

I have hopes for Winifred Holtby (South Riding – 1936), Emma Smith (The Far Cry – 1949) and Rose Macauley (The Towers of Trebizond – 1956) – all old favourites!

It will be fascinating to hear what their choices for the shortlist are.

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