John Banville has become the first Irish author to receive the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for Literature, announced today in Oviedo, Spain. The award, established in 1981, is conferred on those “whose literary work represents an outstanding contribution to universal literature” and includes a Joan Miró sculpture and a cash prize of €50,000. The award will be presented in the autumn in Oviedo at a ceremony presided over by the prince of Asturias.
Unusually, the judges’ citation confers the award not just “on the Irish novelist John Banville for his intelligent, insightful and original work as a novelist” but also “on his alter ego, Benjamin Black, author of disturbing, critical crime novels”.
Previous winners include Philip Roth, Arthur Miller and Gunter Grass.
The judges added: “John Banville’s prose opens up dazzling lyrical landscapes through cultural references in which he breathes new life into classical myths and beauty goes hand in hand with irony. At the same time, he displays an intense analysis of complex human beings that ensnare us in their descent into the darkness of baseness or in their existential fellowship. Each of his works attracts and delights for his skill in developing the plot and his mastery of registers and expressive nuances, as well as for his reflections on the secrets of the human heart.”
Banville, who was born in Wexford in 1945, and is a former literary editor of The Irish Times, has received numerous accolades throughout his career. In 2005, The Sea earned Banville his highest award, the Man Booker Prize, which he had been shortlisted for with The Book of Evidence in 1989. Doctor Copernicus (1976), a fictionalised biography of the Polish astronomer, earned him the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. Kepler (1981), on the German astronomer, won him the Guardian Fiction Prize. The Book of Evidence (1989) won the Guinness Peat Aviation Book Award.
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