– Former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman is the first children’s and YA writer to be awarded the PEN Pinter Prize.
– Judges praised Blackman’s work, saying ‘for more than two decades she has delivered visionary and challenging work that resonates far beyond the written page’
Writer Malorie Blackman has been awarded the PEN Pinter Prize 2022. She will receive the award in a ceremony co-hosted by the British Library on 10 October 2022, where she will deliver an address.
The prize will be shared with an International Writer of Courage: a writer who is active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty. The co-winner, selected by Malorie Blackman from a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN, will be announced at the event on 10 October.
Malorie Blackman was chosen by this year’s judges: Chair of English PEN, Ruth Borthwick; publisher, editor, writer and broadcaster Margaret Busby; and writer, editor and translator Daniel Hahn.
Ruth Borthwick said: ‘This is the first time the PEN Pinter Prize has been awarded to a writer for young people so you’d expect them to be exceptional. Malorie Blackman has transformed the world of writing for young adults. Her work never talks down, and her readers have responded by taking her to their hearts. Malorie has created dynamic imaginary worlds in which her protagonists are living with and challenging issues of injustice in a way that is totally engaging as she is above all a wonderful storyteller.’
Margaret Busby commented: ‘I am delighted to concur with my fellow judges in awarding the 2022 Pinter Prize to Malorie Blackman. Her commitment to the fact that Young Adult reading, as well as exciting the imagination, can shape a lifelong ethical engagement with issues concerning social and political justice – such as racism and cultural difference – is outstanding. For more than two decades she has delivered visionary and challenging work that resonates far beyond the written page.’
Daniel Hahn added: ‘Encouraging young people to engage with political and social issues is vital work, and no one has done it better than Malorie Blackman. Many of her books raise ethical and moral questions, with narrative energy and an uncompromising honesty – usually presenting characters who find themselves in complex situations – challenging young readers to think and to question. A writer of serious commitment to her readers and to the power of stories.’
Malorie Blackman said: ‘I am truly honoured and more than a little stunned to be the recipient of the 2022 PEN Pinter Prize. I have long admired Harold Pinter for his courage and dedication to human rights and social justice and have always believed in the power of the creative arts to connect and communicate with others. I especially believe in the power of fiction to shine a spotlight on the truth and feel truly blessed that I predominantly write for the most discerning, honest audience – young adults and children. Thank you English PEN for considering me a worthy recipient of this award.’
The PEN Pinter Prize was established in 2009 by the charity English PEN, which defends freedom of expression and celebrates literature, in memory of Nobel-Laureate playwright Harold Pinter. The prize is awarded annually to a writer of outstanding literary merit resident in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize in Literature speech, casts an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’.
Former winners of the PEN Pinter Prize are: Tsitsi Dangarembga (2021), Linton Kwesi Johnson (2020), Lemn Sissay (2019), Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie (2018), Michael Longley (2017), Margaret Atwood (2016), James Fenton (2015), Salman Rushdie (2014), Tom Stoppard (2013), Carol Ann Duffy (2012), David Hare (2011), Hanif Kureishi (2010) and Tony Harrison (2009). Former International Writers of Courage have been: Kakwenza Rukirabashaija (2021), Amanuel Asrat (2020), Befeqadu Hailu (2019), Waleed Abulkhair (2018), Mahvash Sabet (2017), Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury a.k.a.Tutul (2016), Raif Badawi (2015), Mazen Darwish (2014), Iryna Khalip (2013), Samar Yazbek (2012), Roberto Saviano (2011), Lydia Cacho (2010) and Zarganar (Maung Thura) (2009).
The PEN Pinter Prize is supported by the generosity of the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Ruth Maxted.
Photo credit: © Paul Akinrinlola