Top 10 Highlights
If you are really hanging out for a bit of literary red carpet then here are the top 10 literary awards from around the world. We of the non-literary persuasion might be interested to learn that these are actually big events and yes, there is a red carpet at many of them.
A few of the awards are extremely well known but don’t offer great prize money. The awards are listed in order of prize money but this doesn’t take into account the boost in sales that the better known awards get for the winning authors and publishers.
Nevertheless, they are all worthy of a black suit and bow tie. Excellent.
10. The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Awarded annual in April.
Joseph Pulitzer was an American publisher with a fierce passion for journalism. His will specified how these awards were to be set up and run and they have grown to become some of the most important achievement awards in the world.
Originally there were only four awards and they related to journalism. That was 1917. There are now twenty one awards across the spectrum of journalism, writing and music, twenty two if you include the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal which goes to the American newspaper winner of the Public Service category.
9. The Australia Prime Minister’s Literary Award
Awarded annually in June.
There are six categories of this award; Fiction, Poetry, Non-fiction, Australia history, Young adult fiction and Children’s fiction. Authors must be Australian citizens or permanent residents and must be alive, which helps for our red carpet aspirations.
Although this is a significant literary award it is interesting that it receives very little press coverage within Australia, or, to put it another way, there is little interest from the general public considering the cultural importance to the country.
In other words, don’t expect much glamour at the red carpet.
8. The Man Booker Prize
Awarded annually in October.
The Man Booker is one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world and has historically only be open to writers from within the Commonwealth of Nations (basically what used to be the extended British Empire).
However, from 2014 the award is opening up to include all novels written in English and published in the UK irrespective of the author’s nationality. This is a big move for such a traditional award, and a blow to many Commonwealth novelists who will now miss out, but the Chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, Jonathan Taylor, says they are simply embracing the glory of English wherever it is from.
A bit about how the award selection works.
7. The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Awarded annually in June.
This award is for novels that are published in English. Librarians from around the world collectively vote to create the nominations list and judges take over from there.
The judges are selected each year from a list of distinguished international academics and authors. They work to shortlist a maximum of ten books from 152 nominations.
The prize is given wholly to the author of the winning book unless that book was translated into English in which case Euro25,000 goes to the translator and Euro75,000 to the author.
The 2013 winner, Kevin Barry, shows us he’s almost as good at speaking as he is at writing.
6. Lannan Literary Awards
Awarded annually in one of the months of the year.
This award was established in 1989 by the Lannan Foundation, looking to ‘honor both established and emerging writers whose work is of exceptional quality’.
The Lannan Foundation itself is dedicated to promoting cultural freedom, diversity and creativity, particularly in relation to indigenous communities.
There is no nomination process for this award. In fact the Foundation states that applications or nominations for this award will not be accepted. Recommendations for the award are given to the foundation by an anonymous network of writers, scholars, publishers and editors and the winner selected by the Foundation itself.
The values of the Lannan Foundation don’t seem that different from those of the Abdulaziz International Award for Translation (see OddSpot) and it’s interesting to note that neither have an open nomination or selection process. Not saying it’s a good or a bad thing. Maybe they should talk. Maybe they do talk.
A reading. One of a series of videos released by the Lannan Foundation.
5. Miguel de Cervantes Prize
Awarded annually in May.
This award is similar to the new English Man Booker International award in that it is only open to authors from a Spanish speaking country and it recognises the full body of work by an author, not just one book. It can only be won once and, as a lifetime achievement award is also similar to the Nobel Prize.
Candidates for the award are nominated by the Association of Spanish Language Academies and the winner is selected by the Spanish Ministry of Culture.
It’s one of the richest rewards on the literary circuit and is named after, hmmm, Miguel de Cervantes whose book, Don Quixote, is often cited as the biggest selling book of all time.
A great speech by Carlos Fuentes at an award.
4. Sheikh Zayed Book Award
UAE D7,000,000 (US$272,000)
Awarded annually in May.
This award was set up to recognize the work of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan who was central to the unification of Abu Dhabi and the UAE. The award is for works that contribute to the development of Arabic culture and it must be written in Arabic.
The award ceremony is in May each year and represents one of the most important cultural events in the Arab region.
A look inside an awards night. Pretty cool.
3. Premio de Novela Ciudad de Torrevieja
Awarded annual in September
This award has been running since 2001 and is given to the best unpublished novel written in Spanish. It was created by the town of Ayuntamiento de Torrevieja and the Spanish publisher Plaza & Janes.
Although the prize is for any work of fiction the winning books have been primarily thrillers or crime stories. Manuscripts come predominantly from Spain and Latin America.
A book trailer. Didn’t know there was such a thing. There you go.
2. Premio Planeta de Novela
Awarded annually in October.
Jose Manuel Lara Hernandez established the ‘Novel of the Planet’ award in 1952 in honour of his wife. It is now run by the Spanish publisher Grupo Planeta and is open to all original novels written in Spanish.
The is also a runners up award of Euro150,000 (US$205,000). All in all this is a massive prize. There have been controversies over the years about who gets these awards and Grupo Planeta was fined 10,000 pesos in Argentina for fraud in relation to the Argentinean version of this prize.
1. Nobel Prize in Literature
SEK8.0 million (US$1,242,040)
Awarded annual in October
Alfred Nobel was a Swedish manufacturer who, among other things, invented dynamite. His substantial estate was used to set up these awards after his death in 1896. Nobel Prizes are given in the fields of physics, physiology or medicine, literature and chemistry.
The Nobel Prize in Literature award has gone to 110 ‘Nobel Laureates’ since 1901. For much of this awards life it has suffered from controversy in that the interpretation of Alfred Nobel’s wishes was that the winning novel should be idealistic. Thus many worthy winners probably missed out because of this interpretation.
The award still recognises books that show some sort of idealism and there remain doubters across the literary world as to it’s relevance for purely literary excellence.
An interview with the 2013 Nobel Prize winner.
A blast from the past. The 1949 Nobel Prize presentation.
The… wait for it… deep breathe… Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Award for Translation… award, is unique in several respects and in our OddSpot because it’s not strictly an award for an author.
This award was set up in 2006 by one of the sons of King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia and recognises the translation of literary works to and from the Arabian language. The aim of the award is to stimulate the exchange of culture, ideas and dialogue between the civilizations of the world.
The award is given in the categories of humanities, literature, religion and natural sciences and each category winner receives US$200,000.
This award deserves recognition based on its stated objectives; however there has been some disquiet in the literary world due to the opaque selection process. In addition, some recipients have said that they have not received their prize.
It is certainly hoped that the award achieves its aims.