The Bad Sex in Fiction Award has gone to dual winners Didier Decoin and John Harvey in a Booker-style decision by the judges.
French writer Decoin was picked for his book The Office of Gardens and Ponds (MacLehose Press) while British author Harvey won for passages in his novel Pax (Holland House). It marks the first time the award has been given to two books.
The judges said: “We tried voting, but it didn’t work. We tried again. Ultimately there was no separating the winners.”
They added: “Faced with two unpalatable contenders, we found ourselves unable to choose between them. We believe the British public will recognise our plight.”
The Literary Review’s tongue-in-cheek prize was established by critic Rhoda Koenig and former editor Auberon Waugh, drawing attention to “the poorly written, redundant, or downright cringeworthy passages of sexual description in modern fiction”.
One passage highlighted from Prix Goncourt winner Decoin’s book states: “Katsuro moaned as a bulge formed beneath the material of his kimono, a bulge that Miyuki seized, kneaded, massaged, squashed and crushed. With the fondling, Katsuro’s penis and testicles became one single mound that rolled around beneath the grip of her hand. Miyuki felt as though she was manipulating a small monkey that was curling up its paws.”
Harvey’s book was singled out for the lines: “She was burning hot and the heat was in him. He looked down on her perfect black slenderness. Her eyes were ravenous. Like his own they were fire and desire. More than torrid, more than tropical: they two were riding the equator. They embraced as if with violent holding they could weld the two of them one.”
The pair secured the unwanted prize from a shortlist featuring The River Capture by Mary Costello (Canongate), Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls (Bloomsbury) and Dominic Smith's The Electric Hotel (Allen & Unwin).