Lucrative literary prizes are presented to the young, the old... and another Theroux

By Louise Jury Media Correspondent
Tuesday 17 December 2013 04:22

The Society of Authors handed out more than £80,000 in prize money to contemporary writers last night in a set of prizes including the prestigious Betty Trask and Somerset Maugham awards.

Hari Kunzru walked away with the £8,000 main Betty Trask prize for a first novel by an author under 35 in a traditional or romantic style for The Impressionist, a comic saga of life in London and India.

Other Betty Trask awards went to Rachel Seiffert, who received £5,000 for her well- received novel The Dark Room and Shamim Sarif, who won £4,000 for The World Unseen.

Three Betty Trask awards of £2,000 each went to Helen Cross, Susanna Jones and Chloe Hooper. Hooper's novel, A Child's Book of True Crime, was nominated for the Orange prize for women's fiction.

Two £6,000 Somerset Maugham awards, which were founded and endowed by Maugham in 1947, went to Charlotte Hobson for Black Earth City and Marcel Theroux, son of Paul the author and brother to Louis the broadcaster, for The Paperchase.

Black Earth City is the story of Hobson's year as a student in Russia. The Paperchase is about a BBC journalist who returns to his native America after his uncle bequeaths him an isolated island off Cape Cod.

Previous winners include Kingsley Amis, Ted Hughes and Julian Barnes. The winners must use the money for travel.

To address the problem of writers who only find their voice later in life, the ceremony, which was introduced by Philip Pullman, also honoured slightly older authors.

The McKitterick Prize of £4,000 for a first novel by a writer over 40 went to Manil Suri for The Death of Vishnu. The Sagittarius Prize of £2,000 for a first novel by a writer over 60 went to Zvi Jagendorf for Wolfy and the Strudelbakers.

The poets Moniza Alvi, David Constantine, Liz Lochhead and Brian Patten each received Cholmondeley awards of £2,000 in recognition of a poet's whole body of writing.

Poets under the age of 30 were awarded Eric Gregory Awards of between £1,000 and £5,000. The winners were Caroline Bird, Christopher James, Jacob Polley, Luke Heeley, Judith Lal, David Briggs, Eleanor Rees and Kathryn Simmonds.

The awards were presented by Ian McEwan, who has experienced his own year of mixed success with his novel Atonement. It took the WH Smith award, but was denied in contests for the cash-rich Whitbread and Booker prizes.

The final prizes at the ceremony at the London Aquarium went to Frank Kuppner, David Park and George Szirtes, who each received £2,000 travelling scholarships. Rhiannon Tise won the Richard Imison Memorial Award of £1,5000 for a writer's first broadcast dramatic work, for The Waltzer.

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