Poet and academic Michael Longley won the 2017 PEN Pinter Prize, which is awarded annually to a writer of outstanding literary merit from Britain, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth who, in the words of Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize in Literature speech, casts an "unflinching, unswerving" gaze upon the world and shows a "fierce intellectual determination... to define the real truth of our lives and our societies."
Longley will receive his award October 10 in a public ceremony at the British Library, where he will deliver an address. He will also announce his co-winner, the International Writer of Courage 2017, selected from a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN. The recipient will be an international writer who is active in defense of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty.
Judge Don Paterson said Longley "is an ideal recipient of the Pinter Prize. For decades now his effortlessly lyric and fluent poetry has been wholly suffused with the qualities of humanity, humility and compassion, never shying away from the moral complexity that comes from seeing both sides of an argument. Longley is a war poet and a love poet, a nature poet and a poet of the arts, a poet of social and cultural history. Whether writing as a celebrant, critic, memoirist or elegist, he has precisely the 'unswerving gaze' Pinter called for, one often fixed on figures in the margins and shadows--whose lives are often left untroubled by literary description, but who, Longley insistently reminds us, have their own heroism, tragedy and nobility, and whose stories reveal the 'real truth of our lives."
Patrice Lawrence won the £2,000 (about $2,580) The Bookseller's YA Book Prize for her "accomplished" and "page-turning" debut novel Orangeboy. Author Melvin Burgess, one of the prize judges, said Orangeboy "ticked so many boxes for so many of the judges. It's a page-turning thriller. The characters and their relationships are truthful, delightful, surprising and strong. It was so refreshing to read something set in an urban black community that will appeal to a diverse U.K. readership. It deals with family, friendship, sex appeal, loyalty and generally being human. It is so accomplished and we all really feel there is something there for everyone."