Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

AS Byatt and John Carey win oldest book prizes

AS Byatt and John Carey
Image caption AS Byatt won for her novel The Children's Book and John Carey won for his book on William Golding

Novelist AS Byatt and critic John Carey have been announced as the winners of Britain's oldest literary awards.

They were awarded James Tait Black Memorial Prizes, following in the footsteps of acclaimed writers including DH Lawrence and Evelyn Waugh.

The prizes are for the best work of fiction and the best biography published during the previous 12 months.

It is the only major British book award judged by scholars and students.

Man Booker prize winner Byatt was given the fiction prize of £10,000 for her novel, The Children's Book.

The shortlist also contained Man Booker prize winners Anita Brookner, Kazuo Ishiguro and Hilary Mantel, along with newcomer Reif Larsen.

'Highest standards'

Byatt said: "I am excited and delighted to win the James Tait Black Prize. It is a very distinguished and long-established award and I am happy to be amongst its list of winners.

"And I am also happy to have been chosen amongst such a strong and varied shortlist."

Literary critic Carey was awarded the £10,000 biography prize for his book William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord Of The Flies. Golding himself was a James Tait Black prize-winner in 1979.

Carey said: "I'm enormously pleased and honoured... not just for myself but for William Golding, the subject of my biography.

"He won the fiction section of the prize himself with his novel Darkness Visible in 1979, and I think he would be tickled pink to know he had made it a double."

'Highest standards'

The prizes are awarded annually by the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at Edinburgh University.

The winners were announced on Friday by crime writer Ian Rankin at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Prize judge Professor Colin Nicholson, of the University of Edinburgh, said: "The literary qualities and sheer entertainment value of the work we have been sifting are convincing evidence that fiction and biography of the highest standards are thriving in an evidently buoyant sector of our culture."

The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black.

Each year more than 300 books are read by professors of literature and postgraduate readers as they select the winners.

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