La Rochelle by Michael Nath has been shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, one of the oldest and most prestigious book prizes awarded for literature written in the English language and Britain’s oldest literary award.
In response to the announcement Michael Nath commented, ‘The nomination is a terrific compliment, it’s a genuine honour to be shortlisted for a literary prize selected and judged by scholars.’
The James Tait Black Prizes were first presented in 1919. There are two awards, given respectively to works of Fiction and Biography written in English and published in the previous calendar year. Each is worth £10,000 to the winner. The awards were set up by the widow of James Tait Black, one of the founders of the publisher, A & C Black.
The winner is selected by the Professor of English Literature at Edinburgh University, assisted by PhD students. The absence of critics or any other ‘celebrity’ judges, along with the prizes’ considerable heritage, make them among the most respected awards in publishing. Authors may only win each award once; no author has yet managed to win in both categories.
The prizes’ pedigree is confirmed by the many illustrious names who have won. The Fiction Prize has been given to, amongst others, E M Forster, Siegfried Sassoon, Aldous Huxley, D H Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark, Iris Murdoch, Beryl Bainbridge, Angela Carter, John le Carré and Bruce Chatwin. Biographers honoured include Lytton Strachey, Antonia Fraser, Richard Ellman, Martin Amis, Victoria Glendinning, Gitta Sereny and Michael Holroyd.
Four victorious authors have gone on to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, William Golding, Nadine Gordimer, J M Coetzee and Doris Lessing.
The four shortlisted novels competing for this year’s £10,000 fiction prize are:
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
La Rochelle by Michael Nath
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
The shortlisted works for the biography section are:
Fordlandia: the Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin
A Life in Pictures by Alasdair Gray
EM Forster : a new life by Wendy Moffat
Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck in China by Hilary Spurling
The winner will be announced at ceremony at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August. The video clip presented above shows footage from last year’s ceremony.