South Scotland

John Spurling wins top prize at Borders Book Festival

John Spurling Image copyright Alex Hewitt
Image caption John Spurling was named the winner of the Walter Scott Prize at the weekend

A novel set in imperial China has won the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.

John Spurling's The Ten Thousand Things is the story of Wang Meng, one of the 14th century's great masters of painting.

It was described by the judges as a "mesmerising, elegantly drawn picture of old imperial China, which feels remarkably modern".

The author received the award at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose.

He was one of seven writers shortlisted for the sixth annual award and he beat off competition from authors including Martin Amis, Adam Foulds and Helen Dunmore to take the prize.

Alistair Moffat, the chairman of the judges, said: "From the audacity of Martin Amis' concentration satire, to a post-modern mash-up of seventeenth-century court and contemporary references, via Sicily, India, Turkey and France, we journeyed and lived ten thousand lives ourselves during the reading and discussion of these books.

"In the end, it was the illumination shone by John Spurling on this fascinating and little-known period that lit us up for the longest time.

"It is a book which deserves enormous credit, and we hope that the Walter Scott Prize can help bring it for him."

'Absolutely delighted'

Mr Spurling spent his early childhood in Nairobi before moving to England a a 10-year-old.

A former BBC radio announcer, he was been a freelance writer since 1966. He was the New Statesman's art critic from 1976-88 and he has written 30 plays and four novels.

Speaking after he was shortlisted, Mr Spurling said: "Absolutely delighted to be shortlisted, especially because I'm a great admirer of Walter Scott, have read all his fiction and have a small bust of him on my bookcase.

"I don't see myself as specifically an historical novelist, since I regard us all as living in continuous history and believe that we can only understand ourselves in the light of history."

To qualify for The Walter Scott Prize, novels must be set at least 60 years ago, be written in English and have been published the preceding year.

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