The PEN/Ackerley Prize is the UK’s only literary prize dedicated to memoir and autobiography and was established in memory of Ackerley, the author and literary editor. This year’s prize judges are Peter Parker (Chair), Colin Spencer, Georgina Hammick and Richard Davenport-Hines.
The shortlist is:
- Julian Barnes Levels of Life (Cape)
- Michael Blakemore Stage Blood (Faber)
- Sonali Deraniyagala Wave (Virago)
- Harry Eyres Horace and Me (Bloomsbury)
- Penelope Lively Ammonites and Leaping Fish (Fig Tree)
Peter Parker, chair of the judges said:
As now seems usual, the books we considered for this year’s prize were very wide-ranging – emotionally, geographically and in their different approaches to the art of writing memoir. Our shortlist of five outstanding books reflects this, comprising a study in love and loss that also takes in the early days of photography and aeronautics; a bloody history of the creation and running of the National Theatre in the 1970s; a stark account of the devastating effects of the 2004 tsunami on one family in Sri Lanka; an enchanting story of a virtual friendship across the centuries between an Ancient Roman poet and a contemporary one; and a subtle meditation on time and memory from ‘beyond the horizon of old age’.
The prize will be awarded on Monday 14th July at the English PEN Summer Party and the winner will receive a cheque for £3,000.
About the prize:
This prize was first awarded in 1982. Following the death of Joe Randolph Ackerley (1896 – 1967), author and long-time literary editor of The Listener magazine, his sister Nancy endowed a literary prize in his memory. Ackerley’s posthumous royalties continue to provide capital for this award.
About the shortlist
Julian Barnes is the author of eleven novels, including Metroland, Flaubert’s Parrot and Arthur & George. His most recent novel, The Sense of an Ending,won the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. He has also written three books of short stories, Cross Channel, The Lemon Table and Pulse; and three collections of journalism, Letters from London, Something to Declare and The Pedant in the Kitchen. His latest book, Levels of Life, was published in 2013 and was a Sunday Times Number Onebestseller. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. In France he is the only writer to have won both the Prix Médicis (for Flaubert’s Parrot) and the Prix Femina (for Talking it Over). In 2004 he received the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, and in 2011 he was awarded the David Cohen Prize for Literature. He lives in London.
Michael Blakemore arrived in the UK from Australia in 1950. He spent fifteen years as an actor before directing at the Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre. He became Associate Director of the National Theatre under Olivier, and directed him in, among others, Long Day’s Journey into Night. He has directed new work by dramatists as diverse as Arthur Miller, Peter Nichols, Michael Frayn, David Hare, Peter Schaffer, Don DeLillo, Woody Allen and David Mamet. At the 2000 Tony Awards he won an unprecedented double as Best Director of both a play, Copenhagen, and a musical, Kiss Me Kate. He has written and directed two films, and is the author of the novel, Next Season. His memoir, Arguments with England finishes where Stage Blood begins.
Sonali Deraniyagala has an undergraduate degree in Economics from Cambridge University and a doctorate in Economics from the University of Oxford. She is on the faculty of the Department of Economics at SOAS, University of London and is a research scholar at Columbia University. She divides her time between North London and New York.
Harry Eyres has been a theatre critic, wine writer, poetry editor and is currently the author of the ‘Slow Lane’ column in the Financial Times. He is a poet and gives regular poetry readings at venues such as the Poetry Café in London, and has contributed to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. He is the author of a collection of poetry, Hotel Eliseo, and of the Beginner’s Guide to Plato’s The Republic, Wine Dynasties of Europe, The Viking Guide to Cabernet Sauvignon Wines and the Which? Wine Guide 1995/6. He lives in London.
Penelope Lively was born in March 1933 in Cairo, Egypt. She came to England at the age of 12, in 1945, and subsequently read Modern History at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. Lively is a prolific and critically acclaimed author of fiction for children and adults. Her books include Astercote (1970); The Ghost of Thomas Kempe (1973), winner of the Carnegie Medal; A Stitch in Time (1976), winner of the Whitbread Award for best children’s book; The Road to Lichfield (1977); According to Mark (1984); and Moon Tiger (1987), winner of the Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Whitbread Award. She lives in London.