Philip Roth was honoured as the winner of The Man Booker International Prize 2011 in London last night (28th June), but controversy over his win continued.
Roth was unable to attend but the prize was accepted by the author and academic Hermione Lee at an awards dinner held at Banqueting House, Whitehall. The awarding of the prize to the Nemesis author lead to the publisher, writer and critic Carmen Callil withdrawing in protest earlier this year.
According to the Independent, in his speech, chair of judges Rick Gekoski said: "I can recall few of his novels that don't provoke an occasional but overwhelming desire to shout, 'Will you shut up!' at a character or his author."
However, he also 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, 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 50 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."
The prize is awarded for an achievement in fiction on the world stage.