Hilary Mantel wins David Cohen Prize for Literature 2013

Hilary Mantel wins David Cohen Prize for Literature 2013
7 March 2013

The David Cohen Prize for Literature 2013 has been awarded to the English novelist, essayist and short story writer Hilary Mantel for a lifetime of achievement in literature.

The prize, worth £40,000, was presented by the chair of judges Mark Lawson at a gala ceremony hosted at the British Library this evening.


Since winning her first Man Booker Prize in 2009 for Wolf Hall Mantel has become one of the UK's best known authors. Her books include Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988); Fludd (1989) winner of the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, the Cheltenham Prize and the Southern Arts Literature Prize; A Place of Greater Safety (1992), winner of the Sunday Express Book of the Year award; A Change of Climate (1994); An Experiment in Love (1995), winner of the 1996 Hawthornden Prize. Her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost (2003), was the MIND Book of the Year.  


Beyond Black (2005), was shortlisted for a 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize and for the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize; Wolf Hall (2009), was winner of the Man Booker Prize and the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction; and Bring Up The Bodies (2012), her most recent novel, was winner of the Man Booker Prize, and Costa Book of the year 2012.


In 2006 she was awarded a CBE.


Mark Lawson, chair of judges, said of this year's winner:

It seems paradoxical that giving a major literary prize - the British Nobel Prize, as I think of it - to one of the most generally-admired and well-liked people in the literary world will be, for some, controversial. This is because of a feeling - voiced by some pundits and perhaps secretly thought by authors who feel unrewarded - that Hilary Mantel has recently been given too much too quickly. That issue, however, was rapidly dismissed by the judges. Crucially, while the writer's other recent prizes have been for two recent books, the David Cohen Prize assesses and rewards an entire career to date. In the case of Hilary Mantel, this means 28 years of work that has produced 13 books ranging across historical and contemporary novels, short stories and a memoir.

 While the judges were as impressed as most readers by Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, it is our particular hope that this prize for three decades of dedication to the possibilities of narrative imagination and English prose will direct attention to such earlier works as the novels Fludd, A Change of Climate and Beyond Black and the autobiography Giving Up The Ghost. Consideration of this remarkable career soon led us to feel that we had had enough of anyone who will moan that Hilary Mantel has already had enough prizes. It would be ludicrous if a history of high achievement somehow disbarred a writer from the David Cohen Prize's list of the highest literary achievers.

On winning the Prize Hilary said:

I did at first find it a little bit hard to take in because my husband gave me the news and I said "Oh I think you mean I've been invited to the David Cohen awards". It was not on my horizon, but of course, here I am and it's a very wonderful place to be.

There are some readers who think that I was born on the day Wolf Hall was published. This prize acknowledges that there are no overnight sensations in the creative arts. That's not the way it works. The ground has to be prepared and I feel that this is recognition of the fact that for many many years I've been trying to perfect my craft…I want to assure the judges that much as there is a lifetime's worth of work behind me, there is still a lifetime's worth of work still to come...

Hilary Mantel was born in Derbyshire, England on 6 July 1952. She studied Law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. She was employed as a social worker, and lived in Botswana for five years, followed by four years in Saudi Arabia, before returning to Britain in the mid-1980s.


The David Cohen Prize was established in 1992 by David and Veronica Cohen, and Arts Council England, and is recognised as one of Britain's most distinguished literary honours. The Prize has in the past been awarded to novelists, dramatists, biographers, poets and essayists. The most recent recipient of the David Cohen Prize for Literature was Julian Barnes in 2011. He joined a distinguished list of winners, including V S Naipaul, Harold Pinter, Muriel Spark, William Trevor, Doris Lessing, Beryl Bainbridge and Thom Gunn (jointly), Michael Holroyd, Derek Mahon and Seamus Heaney.


The John S Cohen Foundation, which was established in 1965 by David Cohen and his family funds the winner's prize. The John S Cohen Foundation has supported education and the arts, helping composers, choreographers, dancers, biographers, poets, playwrights and actors, among others.


The winner of the David Cohen Prize for Literature also chooses the recipient of the Clarissa Luard Award, which is worth £12,500. The award, funded by Arts Council England, is given to a literature organisation that supports young writers and readers or an individual writer under the age of 35. Hilary Mantel presented the 2013 award to Katie Ward.


Katie Ward was born in Somerset in 1979. She has worked in the public and voluntary sectors, including at a women's refuge and for a Member of Parliament. She took a career break to write her debut novel after coming across an article about a book of portraits of female readers. In 2007 Katie was introduced to Hilary Mantel through a colleague, and Hilary took a keen interest in her work. When Girl Reading was complete, Hilary recommended it to her agent who soon had a number of publishers bidding for it. Girl Reading was published in 2011 by Virago.


Katie Ward said:

Hilary is a very special person to me. Not only is she a brilliant and perceptive author, she is also a kind and generous mentor. Over the years, she's dedicated a great deal of time to supporting new writers. I for one will always be grateful for her guidance, friendship and belief. To be receiving the Clarissa Luard Award is lovely, and a little surreal. I take it as encouragement to keep writing. It means I can finish my second novel with confidence and begin to think ahead about what I want to tackle next.

Listen to an exclusive interview with Hilary, her editor Nicholas Pearson (Fourth Estate) and judges Mark Lawson and Sam Leith

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