Shortlists announced for £10,000 book prizes

The shortlists for two book prizes worth £10,000 each have been announced.

Fiction and biography contenders from the last 12 months will contend for this year’s James Tait Black Prizes, presented by the University of Edinburgh every year since 1919.

The winners will be announced in August at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, taking place online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The four novels shortlisted for the fiction prize are Ducks by Lucy Ellmann; Travellers by Helon Habila; Sudden Traveller by Sarah Hall; and Girl by Edna O’Brien.

Fiction judge Dr Benjamin Bateman said: “At our trying hour of staying home, these four dazzling works of fiction supply nourishing forms of travel – around the world, across perilous borders, and into the thoughts of compelling characters whose personal and political emergencies demand our attention.”

The four biographies shortlisted for the prize are: What You Have Heard is True by Carolyn Forche; Constellations: Reflections From Life by Sinead Gleeson; Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya Hartman; and The Photographer at Sixteen: The Death And Life Of A Fighter by George Szirtes.

Biography judge Dr Simon Cooke said: “Whether crossing distances to bear witness or writing the life of one’s own body, recovering lives through the archive or in one’s own family, each of these luminous books is a work of amazing artistic daring, imagination, and integrity.

“With challenges of isolation, distance and proximity such keynotes, these perfectly pitched voices draw us into the lives of others and ourselves with exhilarating urgency and patience.”

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