The PEN/Ackerley Prize was on Tuesday awarded to Miranda Seymour for her frank account of her family’s tangled relationships, In My Father’s House, published by Simon & Schuster. Introducing the prize-winning book, Peter Parker, chair of the judges said: ‘Miranda Seymour recognises that all family stories can be told from different perspectives and in this book about her own troubled relationship with her father she also allows her mother a voice, a voice that comments throughout on what Seymour is writing, challenging both her memory and her motives in telling this extraordinary story. Tragic and hilarious by turn, written with great panache and without undue pity, this is indeed a memoir that bravely exposes the author as much as its ostensible subject.’
The PEN/Ackerley Prize is Britain’s only literary prize dedicated to memoir and autobiography. It was established in memory of JR Ackerley, the author and literary editor. In her acceptance speech, Seymour said that she was particularly happy to win this prize since it commemorates a writer who anyone embarking of an autobiography ought to read. In books such as My Father and Myself and My Dog Tulip, Ackerley demonstrated how an attention to literary style can be used to help writers deal with and successfully communicate even the most difficult subject matter.
Seymour fought off competition from a strong field that included Who Is It That Can Tell Me Who I Am? by Jane Haynes; Ed Husain’s controversial account of his involvement in radical fundamentalism in The Islamist; Dannie Abse’s memoir of his 50-year marriage, The Presence; and John Lanchester’s investigation of family secrets, Family Romance.
The prize and a cheque for £1,000 was awarded by Michael Holroyd, who is retiring as a judge and whose place, it was announced, would be taken by Georgina Hammick.
The shortlist was composed of the following books
The Presence by Dannie Abse (Hutchinson)
Who Is It That Can Tell Me Who I Am? by Jane Haynes (www.intheconsultingroom.com)
The Islamist by Ed Husain (Penguin)
Family Romance by John Lanchester (Faber)
In My Father’s House by Miranda Seymour (Simon & Schuster)
The PEN/Ackerley Prize was presented at the Guardian Newsroom. English PEN would like to thank the Guardian and Waitrose Wines Direct for their generous support of this event.
· The PEN/Ackerley Prize was judged by Michael Holroyd, Francis King, Peter Parker (chair) and Colin Spencer. The award is given each year to a literary autobiography of outstanding merit, written by an author of British nationality and published in the United Kingdom in the previous year. The winner receives a cheque for £1,000. Past winners include Diana Athill, Alan Bennett, Jenny Diski, Barry Humphries, Blake Morrison and Lorna Sage.
· Joe Randolph Ackerley (1896-1967), was an author and long-time literary editor of The Listener magazine. When Ackerley died, his sister Nancy endowed the JR Ackerley Prize in his memory.
· English PEN works to promote literature as a means of intercultural understanding; to promote freedom of speech; and to build a world community of writers.
For information regarding the PEN/Ackerley Prize please contact:
Jonathan Heawood, Director
020 7713 0023 / firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/news/_1648