Martin Amis has been given the unprecedented honour of receiving a posthumous knighthood, The Independent can reveal.
Literary insiders have been told that the novelist will be given a KBE backdated to before his death from oesophageal cancer aged 73 on May 19.
The Birthday Honours list will be published on Friday evening but literary insiders have revealed that he will be the first person who is no longer living ever to be featured on the list.
He was approached by telephone by senior civil servants several weeks before his death as he fought cancer from his home in Florida and he accepted the honour, mirroring the knighthood which his father, Kingsley Amis had received 43 years earlier for his achievement as a comic novelist.
That the “bad boy” of English writing was going to join the establishment by becoming Sir Martin has been a closely guarded secret for weeks. Major figures in the literary world had written in support of Amis who defined a generation with his acrobatic wit and chiselled prose.
He could hardly speak when approached about the honour as the cancer had taken a grip on his vocal chords, but friends of the family said he was tremendously moved and grateful for what turned out to be a deathbed tribute to his giant contribution to English literature.
The last time an urgent intervention was made to honour a great author who was at risk of an early death was an OM, Order of Merit, given on the recommendation of the monarch to poet laureate Ted Hughes, which was granted days before his death in 1998.
Amis stirred envy and adulation for his novels which included Money and The Rachel Papers. His later years saw him preoccupied with losses and parting and deaths. He received several prizes and was named by the Times in 2008 as one of the 50 greatest post war novelists.
It is expected his widow Isabel Fonseca will accept the knighthood at Buckingham Palace on his behalf at a later date.
There was a rush to get the knighthood to him when it became apparent that he was dying and Britain’s top novelists added their voice to a last minute campaign to get him a top honour.
He had to go through the usual government checks and passed every requirement but this lengthy process meant that sadly he died before he could see his knighthood announced.
One of his supporters for the honour said: “Martin loved Britain and was one of its great chroniclers and he was so grateful to be given an honour that marked his desire to make writing alter how we see the world and how we live.
“He was a writer who reinvented story-telling as his unique prose could be a charged weapon as well as a means of moving and entertaining people with observations that reinvented the zeitgeist.”
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