David Cohen Prize 2013

Latest update 'Tony Harrison is the winner of 2015's David Cohen Prize'

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. 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...

Listen to an exclusive interview with Hilary Mantel


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.


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.

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.

Books by Hilary Mantel

  • Learning to Talk

    by Hilary Mantel
    Fourth Estate
  • Beyond Black

    by Hilary Mantel
    Harper Perennial
  • Wolf Hall

    by Hilary Mantel
    Fourth Estate
  • Bring Up the Bodies

    by Hilary Mantel
    Fourth Estate


The winner of the David Cohen Prize is selected by a panel of judges comprised of authors, literary critics and academics. This year's judging panel includes:


  • Shirley Crew, Professor Emeritus of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Leeds
  • Award-winning novelist Sarah Hall
  • Kathleen Jamie, writer, poet and Professor of Creative Writing at Stirling University
  • Writer and critic Sam Leith
  • Broadcaster, critic and biographer Fiona MacCarthy, OBE
  • Award-winning poet and critic, Daljit Nagra
  • Kate Summerscale, award-winning writer of fiction and non-fiction, and judge of numerous literary prizes
  • Screenwriter and dramatist, Roy Williams


Mark Lawson, Chair of Judges said:


'In 2011, when Julian Barnes won the David Cohen Prize before going on to take the Man Booker, it was further confirmation of the Cohen's knack of highlighting the writers who really matter. Three previous winners of the DCP went on to claim the Nobel Prize for Literature and I think the David Cohen Prize can properly be seen as a sort of Nobel for UK and Irish writers. I am delighted to be chairing for a second time an award of such distinction and, in the early stages of the 2013 judging, have been excited to see new candidates emerging to challenge those who ran close last time.'

About the David Cohen Prize 2013

Celebrating a lifetime’s achievement in literature

Established in 1993, the David Cohen Prize for Literature is one of the UK’s most distinguished literary prizes. It recognises writers who use the English language and are citizens of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, encompassing dramatists, as well as novelists, poets and essayists. Former winners include V S Naipaul, Harold Pinter, William Trevor, Doris Lessing, Seamus Heaney and, most recently in 2013, Hilary Mantel.
The biennial prize, of £40,000, is for a lifetime’s achievement and is donated by the John S Cohen Foundation. Established in 1965 by David Cohen and his family, the trust supports education, the arts, conservation and the environment. Arts Council England provides a further £12,500 (The Clarissa Luard Award) to enable the winner to encourage new work, with the dual aim of promoting young writers and readers.


Previous winners of the David Cohen Prize for Literature and recipients of the Clarissa Luard Award (in italics)


1993 V S Naipaul An award for a young biographer or cultural historian, administered by the Society of Authors, won by Rosemary Hill
1995 Harold Pinter The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, for the development of young playwrights
1997 Muriel Spark The library of James Gillespie's High School, Edinburgh (the inspiration behind The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie)
1999 William Trevor An award for a young writer from Omagh in Co. Tyrone, administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland
2001 Doris Lessing The Art of Regeneration, in association with the Royal National Theatre
2003 Beryl Bainbridge and Thom Gunn (joint winners) The Arvon Foundation and the Kings Lynn Literature Festival
2005 Michael Holroyd Royal Society of Literature/ Jerwood Foundation Award for Non-Fiction, awarded to Alice Albinia
2007 Derek Mahon Gallery Press, Ireland
2009 Seamus Heaney Poetry Aloud!

2011 Julian Barnes The Reading Agency

2013 Hilary Mantel Katie Ward

Writers are considered for the Award through nomination by the judging panel; no submissions will be accepted.


For further information on the Award, please contact:


Lois Hopkins or 0208 516 2960

Press enquiries:

Email Harriet Jackson or call 020 8516 2976.