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March 14, 2014

Folio Prize: George Saunders wins with short story collection

Tenth of December - George Saunders

Tenth of December – George Saunders

American writer George Saunders has won the inaugural Folio Prize for his “darkly playful” short story collection, Tenth of December.

The new prize, open to English-language writers from around the world, pre-empts the Man Booker Prize, which this year expands to a global level.

Saunders picked up his £40,000 cheque at a ceremony in central London on Monday night.

The eight-strong shortlist had been dominated by American authors.

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March 10, 2014

Crace, Aslam, Forna win $150k Windham Campbell prizes.

windam-campbell-prizeBy Sarah Shaffi.

Man Booker shortlisted Jim Crace is one of eight recipients of this year’s $150,000 Windham Campbell Literature Prizes.

The eight winners, from seven countries, receive the generous awards in recognition of their achievements and to support their work.

Also winning are novelists Nadeem Aslam, author of The Blind Man’s Garden and Maps for Lost Lovers (both Faber), and Aminatta Forna, whose latest novel The Hired Man is published by Bloomsbury. Pankaj Mishra, author of From the Ruins of Empire (Penguin), was a winner in the non-fiction category, as was Canadian John Vaillant, whose The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival is published by Sceptre.

British playwright Sam Holcroft, published by Nick Hern Books, also won an award, in the drama category, alongside Kia Corthron from the US (Methuen/NoPassport Press) and Australian Noëlle Janaczewska (Currency Press).

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April 19, 2013

Shehadeh in contention for second Orwell Prize

Raja Shehadeh

Raja Shehadeh

| By Charlotte Williams

Author Raja Shehadeh is in the running to win the Orwell Prize for a second time, with Random House the most nominated publisher on the shortlist for the £3,000 prize.

Raja Shehadeh’s Occupation Diaries (Profile Books), about daily life in Palestine, is among the titles on the seven-strong shortlist, with Injustice by Clive Stafford Smith (Harvill Secker), examining the US justice system, and A Very British Killing by A T Williams (Jonathan Cape), about the killing of a hotel receptionist in Iraq by British Army troops, the two Random House titles on the list.

Shedhadeh previously won the prize in 2008 for Palestinian Walks, while Stafford Smith was also on the shortlist that year for Bad Men: Guantanamo Bay.

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November 23, 2011

The fight hasn’t gone out of literature just yet

The row between Bernard-Henri Lévy, left, and Michel Houellebecq kept Paris entertained for much of 2008. Photograph: Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP/Getty Images

Niall Ferguson’s spat with critic Pankaj Mishra is the latest in a long line of literary feuds.

By Robert McCrum

“I will hound him in print in a way he has never experienced before.” Professor Niall Ferguson’s declaration of war on critic Pankaj Mishra for a hostile notice in the London Review of Books will have brought some pre-Christmas cheer to those who row in the galleys of literary journalism.

For a moment it seemed as if this would be the year in which peace broke out on the slopes of Parnassus. In May, Theroux shook hands with Naipaul. In America, the critic Dale Peck made up with his long-term foe, “the worst writer of his generation”, novelist Rick Moody.

So, thank God for Prof Ferguson’s thin skin. The only question is: will this “spat” descend into a full-blown “feud”? In the taxonomy of literary bust-ups, which takes in Dickens v Thackeray and Henry James v HG Wells, there are three basic categories.

First, there’s the Row-Literary. This is really no more than the cost of doing business in Grub Street. The Row-Literary is usually inspired by a bad review. John le Carré’s review of The Satanic Verses in the Observer is a locus classicus.

A small domestic incident quickly became an international bushfire when lifelong literary fire-raiser Christopher Hitchens merrily chucked kerosene on some smouldering embers. Feud watchers will know that it’s the sign of a really good literary row when outsiders get dragged in.

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November 21, 2011

Four historians, two arguments, nobody dead. Does it matter? Well, yes

The argument between Niall Ferguson (pictured) and Pankaj Mishra shows the difficulty of discussing imperialism. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian

Whatever political side you’re on, history cannot be taught as lists of grievances and comforts.

By Ian Jack

Dr David Starkey rarely disappoints as a controversialist, so it is no surprise he thinks most of Britain is a white monoculture – “unmitigatingly white”, he told a conference this week in London. The debate had been about the national curriculum, which Starkey said needed a “serious focus on our own culture”.

Another participant, Dr Joya Chatterji, a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, wondered about that – wasn’t Britain rather diverse? Absolutely not, Starkey said: “You have such a series of assumptions … a kind of Ken Livingstone-esque view of rainbow Britain.” Wherever he went, he said – to Yorkshire, to his birthplace in Westmorland, to Kent, or on holiday in the south-west – he found nothing but people the same colour as himself and all previous Starkeys.

By Yorkshire, he clearly didn’t mean the ex-industrial cities and towns of the West Riding. One imagines a pale hiking party climbing Pen-y-ghent with blindfolds issued on the way back to Leeds.

Chatterji is an Indian historian. In the same week another spat between an Indian writer and a British historian broke out in the London Review of Books. Pankaj Mishra had written a scalding piece on Niall Ferguson and his latest book, Civilisation: the West and the Rest. Ferguson is a professor at Harvard, well known in this country for his TV documentaries and his pugilistic approach towards anti-imperialism. He was furious with Mishra’s review because, he wrote, it amounted to “a crude attempt at character assassination, which … strongly implies that I am a racist”. He demanded an apology. None came, though in a note appended to Ferguson’s letter, Mishra said the professor was “no racist”, but rather a kind of fashion victim to current beliefs that the west’s heyday was over and that its passing should be lamented and its triumphs acknowledged.

You might be forgiven for wondering how much any of this matters to anyone outside the combatants: four historians in two arguments, nobody dead.

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November 15, 2011

Niall Ferguson v Pankaj Mishra: battle of the historians

It's Mishra v Ferguson Photograph: Corbis; Christian Sinibalde

The two academics are having a spat. Is it time for them to step outside and settle it once and for all ?

ByPatrick Barkham

It is shaping up to be the tastiest historical scrap since Rob Newman’s comedy professor character compared the girlfriend of David Baddiel’s don to Peter Beardsley. The warring academics, beloved of 1990s students for their “that’s you, that is” repartee, have made way for Niall Fergusonand Pankaj Mishra, after the latter likened Ferguson to Tom Buchanan in the Great Gatsby.

As with all the best academic spats, spectators are advised to equip themselves with a dictionary and a history degree to follow the action.

Mishra, the Indian author and essayist, argued in the London Review of Books that Ferguson was “homo atlanticus redux”, a “retailer of emollient tales about the glorious past” whose books “are known less for their original scholarly contribution than for containing some provocative counterfactuals”.

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