You are here

Philip Roth praised by Man Booker International chair of judges

Philip Roth praised by Man Booker International chair of judges

Philip Roth was honoured as the winner of the 2011 Man Booker International Prize at an awards dinner held at Banqueting House, Whitehall on Tuesday 28 June 2011. Roth was unable to attend and the prize was accepted on his behalf by author and academic Hermione Lee.

Dr Rick Gekoski, the chair of the 2011 judges, delivered a speech in honour of Philip Roth. He said,

"In revisiting him over these last months, I've been struck by how various his work is, how styles and topics and themes appear, work themselves out, and morph into something quite different. It is remarkable, to use a boxing metaphor, how full of ringcraft his mature fiction is.

As a reader you cannot but respond, and you have a choice. You can decide that you are being bullied, hectored, asked too much for too little, and walk away. Or you may believe, as I do, that the fierceness of the demands of a Roth novel is so potent, the quality of the intelligence and narrative gift so percipient, and the issues of such importance, that you are positively anxious to come out for the next round."

In accepting the award Hermione Lee said:

"Philip Roth is the great literary adventurer, performer, and self-transformer of this and the last century. He has been one of the giants of American fiction for over fifty years, with a following across the world, and the award of the International Man Booker for his life's work is a welcome recognition of his audacity, energy, imaginative courage, comic bravura and historical seriousness."

Philip Roth, in a brief film played to the guests, acknowledged receipt of the "esteemed award" by "reading a few pages from my 2010 book Nemesis." He said that he chose the reading because "coming where they do, they are the pages I like best in Nemesis. They constitute the last pages of the last work of fiction I've published, the end of the line after 31 books."

The award was presented by Jonathan Taylor, Chair of the Booker Prize Foundation, and Peter Clarke, Chief Executive of the Man Group plc, sponsors of the prize.

The judging panel for the 2011 Man Booker International Prize was: writer, academic and rare-book dealer, Dr Rick Gekoski (Chair); publisher, writer and critic, Carmen Callil; and award-winning novelist, Justin Cartwright.

The Man Booker International Prize, worth £60,000, is awarded for an achievement in fiction on the world stage. It is presented once every two years to a living author for a body of work published either originally in English or widely available in translation in the English language. It has previously been awarded to Ismail Kadare in 2005, Chinua Achebe in 2007 and Alice Munro in 2009.

You can hear Mark Lawson interviewing Philip Roth on BBC Radio 4 Front Row here

Read Jan Dalley's interview with Philip Roth for the Financial Times here.


Listen to Hermione Lee's speech from June 2011


Listen to our Philip Roth podcast from July 2011

Dr Rick Gekoski, the chair of the 2011 Man Booker International Prize
Dr Rick Gekoski, the chair of the 2011 Man Booker International Prize