Entertainment & Arts

Bad Sex in Fiction: Manil Suri scoops 2013 award

The City of Devi cover
Image caption Manil Suri's novel is set in an India under the threat of nuclear war

Author Manil Suri has scooped the Bad Sex in Fiction prize for an erotic scene involving three characters.

Suri described the encounter as "shoals of quarks and atomic nuclei" in The City of Devi, set in Mumbai threatened with nuclear war.

The US-based writer, who was unable to collect his award, beat authors including the late Woody Guthrie.

The award highlights "crude, badly written or perfunctory use of sexual description" in modern novels.

Previous winners of prize, established by The Literary Review in 1993, include Melvyn Bragg, Norman Mailer and AA Gill.

Judges of this year's winner were impressed with Suri's scientific description of a sex scene involving the novel's three main protagonists, a physicist, his wife and a young gay male Muslim.

The full text of the passage that caught the judges' eyes was: "Surely supernovas explode that instant, somewhere, in some galaxy.

"The hut vanishes, and with it the sea and the sands - only Karun's body, locked with mine, remains.

"We streak like superheroes past suns and solar systems, we dive through shoals of quarks and atomic nuclei. In celebration of our breakthrough fourth star, statisticians the world over rejoice."

'Elastic of my underwear'

Suri's publisher Bloomsbury were at the London ceremony to accept the award on his behalf, and made a plea to readers of the novel to reach their own conclusions about its content.

"In accepting this award we challenge everyone to make up their own mind about Manil Suri's The City of Devi. As Tolstoy said in Anna Karenina, 'There are as many kinds of love as there are hearts'.

"Take The City of Devi home to bed with you tonight and discover sex scenes that the Times Literary Supplement praised as 'unfettered, quirky, beautiful, tragic and wildly experimental'.

"As Jane Austen observed: 'One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.' Which half are you in?" the publisher concluded.

Suri, who has formerly made the Man Booker Prize longlist and is a professor of mathematics at Maryland University, overcame a strong shortlist.

It included Susan Choi for My Education, which contained the description "magma still heaved and groaned and was yearning to fling itself into the air".

Eric Reinhardt's The Victoria System made the cut with a passage which used the phrase "the elastic of my underwear".

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