Literary Award Winners announced
A journey into Indian classical music by an author, performer and vocalist and an interweaving series of vignettes set in south London have won the UK’s longest-running literary awards.
Acclaimed writers Amit Chaudhuri and Keith Ridgway join the dazzling line-up of authors whose books have won the James Tait Black Prizes, awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh. The winners of the £10,000 prizes were announced by author and broadcaster Sally Magnusson, who hosted the live awards event at the Book Festival on Wednesday evening.
Amit Chaudhuri’s winning book in the biography prize, Finding the Raga: An Improvisation on Indian Music, published by Faber, is a mesmerising exploration of the author’s relationship with North Indian classical music. The author of several acclaimed books and works of poetry, Chaudhuri has also released recordings of his singing North Indian classical music. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2009 and has been a Professor of Creative Writing at Ashoka University since 2020.
Biography Judge Dr Simon Cooke, of the University of Edinburgh, called Finding the Raga: An Improvisation on Indian Music “a work of great depth, subtlety, and resonance, which unobtrusively changed the way we thought about music, place, and creativity. Folding the ethos of the raga into its own form, it is a beautifully voiced, quietly subversive masterpiece in the art of listening to the world”.
Keith Ridgway’s winning book in the fiction prize, A Shock, published by Picador, follows several different characters living in south London. Over nine overlapping chapters the novel shines a spotlight on their lives and relationships. Born in Dublin and based in London, Ridgway’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope - All Story and many other magazines. His is a winner of the Prix Femina Étranger, The Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, and the O. Henry Award. A Shock is his fifth novel and first in eight years.
Fiction Judge Dr Benjamin Bateman, of the University of Edinburgh, called A Shock “a sensitive, creative, and highly humane examination of lives that, in so much other fiction, would be relegated to the status of minor characters”.
The James Tait Black Prizes are for the best works of fiction and biography during the previous 12 months. They are the only major British book awards judged by literature scholars and students. The prizes are awarded by the University of Edinburgh’s English Literature department, which is the oldest in the world.
The biography shortlist also featured: A Little Devil in America: In Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib (Allen Lane); In Memory of Memory: A Romance by Maria Stepanova, translated by Sasha Dugdale (Fitzcarraldo Editions); and Burning Man: The Ascent of DH Lawrence by Frances Wilson (Bloomsbury).
The fiction shortlist also featured: English Magic by Uschi Gatward (Galley Beggar Press); Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Serpent’s Tail) and Memorial by Bryan Washington (Atlantic Books).