British playwright Tom Stoppard won the £40,000 (about $52,435) David Cohen Prize for Literature, which recognizes a lifetime's achievement by writers in English who are citizens of the U.K. or Ireland.
Chair of judges Mark Lawson said: "Dramatists endure a test of whether their work has lasted that it is far more brutal than the measure for novelists and poets of books remaining in print or on syllabuses. For a play to be seen as great, it must endure frequent revivals, in which the text is stress-tested by successive generations of directors, actors, and audiences....
"Playwrights--however great--tend to win fewer literary prizes than other writers. Both the David Cohen Prize--and its Swedish literary equivalent, the Nobel--have gone to the theatre far less frequently than to other forms. This is because even the very best play script is unfinished--a blueprint for a live performance. So it is another mark of the literary merit of Tom Stoppard that those judges who met his plays mainly on the page were just as enthusiastic as those who had spent numerous evenings with them in the dark.... Two decades after Harold Pinter was an early winner of the David Cohen Prize, the award marks its Silver Jubilee by honoring a second giant of 20th century British drama."
Stoppard told the Guardian: "Winning a lifetime achievement award, one's first thought is: 'Surely not yet.' And one's second is: 'Just in time, mate'... Quite frankly, it has always meant a lot to me, the idea that one is writing for the future as well. I'm never convinced it will work out that way. We still don't know in the long run, it's impossible to say. History is full of the names of writers who at one time seemed to be permanently established and who slowly disappeared from view. I'll absolutely own up to writing for the present and for posterity--but as Lytton Strachey said: 'What has posterity ever done for me?' "