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Barry wins Walter Scott Prize
18.06.12 | Charlotte Williams
Faber author Sebastian Barry has won the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction for his novel, On Canaan's Side.
The Irish author was presented with the award by its sponsor the Duke of Buccleuch, at a ceremony on Saturday [16th June] at the Brewin Dophin Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland. The prize rewards novels which must be set 60 years ago or more.
The judging panel, which included festival director and chair Alistair Moffat, said: "There was little more than a whisker between On Canaan's Side and the other five shortlisted novels, but it was its drive, and its sustained power that persuaded us to award the Walter Scott Prize to Sebastian Barry.
"A work of immense power, the book is muscular and complete, and the author wears his learning lightly. Every character is fully drawn and memorable."
Barry said: "I'm uncharacteristically speechless. I really was not expecting to win—just look at the other authors on the shortlist. My first encounter with Walter Scott was unlocking a trunk in my grandfather's attic which contained the Waverley novels. I felt as if I was excavating a tomb.
"I think that is an appropriate way to encounter a writer—as if you were literally retrieving him from the damp and history of your grandfather's life."
Among the shortlisted authors was the late Barry Unsworth, who died on 5th June, with tributes paid to him at the ceremony.