British author Ali Smith wins fiction award
Scottish-born author Ali Smith won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction on Wednesday, netting a long-sought victory after missing out on a string of prestigious prizes this year.
Smith’s novel explores the boundaries of gender, weaving together the tales of a modern teenage girl struggling with her sexuality and a female artist in Renaissance Italy who dresses as a man to be able to work.
Smith, born in 1962, seemed not to believe her ears as she was announced the winner after being shortlisted for the Man Booker, the Folio Prize and the Costa Book Award in the past year without winning. “Are you sure?” Smith said as she accepted the award at a London ceremony.
“I can’t believe I’m up here. I really am shocked, speechless. Thank you to Sarah, my darling my partner who has seen me through these books. This is unbelievable, it’s not even my birthday.”
The award comes with a cash prize of 30,000 pounds (US$46,000).
Previously known as the Orange prize, the award is open to all women writing in English and has previously gone to Zadie Smith for “On Beauty” and Lionel Shriver for “We Need To Talk About Kevin.”
The chair of the judging panel Shami Chakrabarti praised Smith’s novel for its humour and compassion.
“Ancient and modern meet and speak to each other in this tender, brilliant and witty novel of grief, love, sexuality and shape-shifting identity,” Chakrabarti said.
The novel comes in two editions, one beginning with the story of the 15th century artist, and the other starting with the narrative of the teenage girl, who is grieving the death of her mother.
The Baileys award announcement described the work as a playful and “singular yarn” where “all life’s givens get a second chance.”
Also nominated for the award were English author Laline Paull, Canadian author Rachel Cusk, Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie and Welsh author Sarah Waters.
Smith’s other works include “Hotel World” and “The Accidental.”