Pascale Petit has won the 2018 RSL Ondaatje Prize with Mama Amazonica (Bloodaxe Books). The annual Prize of £10,000 is awarded for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place.This is the first time in the Prize’s 14 year history that a poetry collection has won.
Mama Amazonica is an unforgettable read – rich with metaphor, the poems explode on the page with the multiple narratives of motherhood, illness, pain, and redemption. All of this set in a rainforest that is both mythic and vividly alive. This is a book that feels almost magical in its unlikeliness, and that for me is what made it a clear winner.
Tahmima Anam – RSL Ondaatje 2018 Judge
For more information on the winner and other shortlisted authors, please see our press release.
We are delighted to announce that the £10,000 Encore Award 2018 for best second novel of the year is jointly awarded to Andrew Michael Hurley for Devil’s Day (John Murray) and Lisa McInerney for The Blood Miracles (John Murray).
Chair of the judges, Alex Clark comments: ‘Prize juries are reluctant to split awards – probably because it looks either as though they can’t make up their minds, or that there was deadlock. Happily, neither occurred in this case: we simply couldn’t put a cigarette paper between these two splendid novels and wanted to acknowledge and reward them both. But we’d also like to make absolutely clear that our decision doesn’t diminish the rest of what was a brilliant shortlist – each author more than earned their place and we’d like to congratulate all of them heartily. Third novels all round, please.’
We are currently seeking an enthusiastic and experienced Events and Education Manager to play a central role in engaging the public in literature through events and education programmes at the RSL.
As the successful applicant, you will take lead responsibility for our public events and schools outreach programmes, applying your passion for literature and excellent project management skills to the role. You will have experience in managing a complex workload, meeting numerous deadlines and the ability to maintain and develop relationships with partners, sponsors and trustees.
If appointed, you will join the sociable, hard-working team of five in our small office in Somerset House and receive one-to-one support from our Director, Molly Rosenberg.
Please find further details, including the job description and person specification, and application form from here.
The closing date for applications is Wednesday 25 April 2018 at 12 noon
For twenty years Drue Heinz supported the RSL, most notably through our annual Anglo-American literature events. An Honorary Fellow, she was an extraordinary philanthropist for literature, and here our Literary Advisor, Maggie Fergusson, reflects on how she became a friend as well.
I first met Drue over lunch in Odin’s, off Marylebone Road, in the mid-1990s. Roy Jenkins, then President of the Royal Society of Literature, made up a trio. Roy was keen that Drue should fund some activity at the RSL, but this white-haired old lady (she was already in her 80s) was no pushover: she asked us beady, searching questions. Still, by the time pudding arrived, Drue had agreed to sponsor a series of RSL lectures – the Hawthornden Anglo-America lectures – for which we would invite American writers to speak about British subjects, and vice versa. They have been an annual feature of the RSL programme ever since.
It soon became the custom that after each lecture Drue would host a lavish dinner at her home off Berkeley Square. Reached through an ordinary-looking front door in what looked like a row of garages, this was a tardis of a residence. Once over the threshold, one found oneself in a kind of giant palazzo, complete with balconied courtyard. In the vast dining-room, Drue’s latest art acquisitions would be displayed on easels. The food was always sumptuous, and on every table there was a bottle of up-market ketchup – not Heinz.
Somehow, over the years, Drue morphed from a formidable patron of the RSL into a friend. Every so often, she would invite me round for tea – an elaborate ceremony involving a great deal of silver: teapot, jug for hot water, domes covering sandwiches and cake. She loved peanut butter, and believed it aided longevity.
Every so often, she made a sudden gesture of extraordinary generosity. One Christmas, she had delivered to me a dozen partridges from a butcher in Mount Street. We froze them, then invited Drue round to eat them with us in the new year, with Michael Holroyd and Maggie Drabble, and Ronnie and Natasha Harwood. She was the life and soul of the party. She could receive as well as give.
Drue had many houses, but the one she loved best – and where she died – was Hawthornden, a castle clinging vertiginously to the rocks in Midlothian. She once invited my husband, Jamie, and me to dinner there during the Edinburgh Festival. In front of each guest, when we entered the dining-room, was one entire lobster – and in places of knives and forks a set of pincers and crackers I had no idea how to deploy. To make things more alarming, Drue had seated me next to Richard Ford, and I was thoroughly overawed. But Richard Ford was charming, and the lobster proved manageable, and it was – as always with Drue – a wonderful evening.
About a year ago, Drue invited Jamie and me to drop round one evening after work. She was, by then, too blind to read – but, undaunted, she had arranged a rota of young actors and actresses to come and read to her. We spoke about books, but about many other things besides. She reminisced about her first meeting with Donald Trump, when he turned up very late for a lunch party she was giving, 30 years ago. She talked about hairdressers, and how, as soon as one touched her head, she could tell whether he was worth his salt.
On our next visit, she insisted, we must bring our daughters – “And we’ll send out for fish n’ chips”. Alas…
Maggie Fergusson, Literary Advisor, has worked for the RSL for over 25 years.
(Photo of Drue Heinz taken in June 2017 at a special fundraising event for the Society).
The Royal Society of Literature is delighted to announce the 2018 V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize for unpublished short stories. In addition to a prize of £1000 and publication in the RSL Review and Prospect Magazine online. This year’s judges are Tibor Fischer, Irenosen Okojie and Leone Ross.
The closing date for entries is Friday 29 June 2018.
On Wednesday 20 June 2018 we will dedicate a whole day to the celebration of one of the 20th Century’s most important novels. Set on ‘a Wednesday in mid-June’, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (like James Joyce’s Ulysses) takes place over the course of a single day.
Looking at Mrs Dalloway, 1:30 – 2:30pm, National Portrait Gallery
Cultural historian Alexandra Harris leads a tour of selected paintings and photographs followed by a short talk on Mrs Dalloway.
Walking with Mrs Dalloway 4:00 – 5:00pm, British Library
Virginia Woolf’s biographer Hermione Lee and Alexandra Harris talk about the walks in the novel and follow its paths into dreams, memories, and moments of revelation.
RSL Members’ Book Group, 5:30 – 6:30pm, British Library
A chance for RSL Members to talk about Mrs Dalloway. This informal discussion will be steered by RSL Director Molly Rosenberg.
Dalloway Day, 7:00 – 8:30pm, British Library
Literary critics Elaine Showalter and Sarah Churchwell discuss the significance of Mrs Dalloway and its ongoing influence on literary culture. Then, Hermione Lee talks to novelist Alan Hollinghurst about Woolf’s legacy and influence on his work. A drinks reception will follow this event.
We are delighted to announce the six recipients of the 2018 RSL Literature Matters Awards. The Awards aim to enable literary excellence and innovation, providing writers with financial support to undertake a new literary project. The judges this year are Jonathan Keates (chair), Imtiaz Dharker and Gillian Slovo.
£2320 – Matt Bryden – Lost and Found
A pamphlet of poetry based on a residency at Bristol Temple Meads train station. Jonathan Keates says the judges loved the ‘concept of a Railway Lost Property Office re-imagined in terms of myth and legend’.
£3000 – Michael Caines – Brixton Review of Books
A free literary newspaper to be published and distributed on a regular basis. Gillian Slovo admired the ‘intention to turn the usual tired giveaways to commuters into something that could provoke and expand an appreciation of literature in London.’
£3800 – Kate Clanchy – The Young Person’s International Dictionary of Rare and Precious Words
Working with schoolchildren, especially those from disadvantaged and refugee backgrounds, to collect precious words for ‘dictionary’ entries and an anthology. In Imtiaz Dharker’s view, ‘Kate Clanchy is someone who brings poetry out of students who often hardly speak at all, many of them migrants or refugees from war zones.’
£2800 – Owen Lowery – R. S. Thomas for a New Generation, The Poet Prevails
A production of poetry, music and film, inspired by the poetry of R. S. Thomas, with the composer Ellen Davies, Ensemble Cymru, the Royal harpist and choristers in Bangor Cathedral. In Jonathan Keates’s, view this ‘mixed-media homage to R. S. Thomas is a tribute long overdue, celebrating one of Wales’s most idiosyncratic and sharply-defined poetic voices.’
£3000 – Pascale Petit – Tiger Girl
A sequence of poems exploring foreignness, in the context of Brexit Britain and her grandmother’s Indian heritage.
Imtiaz Dharker says that ‘a new collection of poems by Pascale Petit is always something to celebrate. To each one she brings images worked in the round, electrified by language to be live and sensuous.’
£5000 – Evan Placey – Cat A
A new stage play exploring dementia and ageing in prisons.
Gillian Slovo considered this project ‘a wonderful example of writing’s ability to shine a light on the world we live in and, as well, to connect with diverse audiences and participants.’
A consultation on the future of Northamptonshire county council library service ends Saturday 13 January, 5pm. Up to 28 of the county’s 36 libraries could be closed if the plans get the go-ahead. Northamptonshire county council, which is looking to make £115m savings in the next four years, have been proposed three options for the region’s libraries, each of which will see at least 21 branches closed. The threat to the library service has in turn prompted concerns about the custodianship of the poet John Clare’s manuscripts – currently held by Northamptonshire libraries – with several authors (many RSL Fellows) raising concerns.