Britain's Bakewell and Laing among $165k Windham-Campbell Prize winners

Britain's Bakewell and Laing among $165k Windham-Campbell Prize winners

Eight authors, including British non-fiction writers Sarah Bakewell and Olivia Laing, and Manchester-based Ugandan novelist Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, have each been recognised with an award of $165,000 (£118,775) from the Windham-Campbell Prize to support their writing.

Designed to support English language writers from anywhere in the world, the prize was established in 2013 with a gift from the late Donald Windham in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy M. Campbell.

Poets Lorna Goodison and Cathy Park Hong, dramatists Lucas Hnath and Suzan-Lori Parks and novelist John Keene - who all bar Jamaican poet Goodison hail from the US - complete the list of this year's recipients. Each recently received the call from program director Michael Kelleher to tell them they were award winners, having been nominated confidentially and judged anonymously. 

"The day I make the call to notify award winners is the highlight of the year, as each cycle I hear how much of a difference it will make for them" said Kelleher. "Six years on, we can now to see the impact the prizes have on these writers' lives, careers, and their work. The feeling is magical."

In the non-fiction category, both the award-winners are British. Bakewell from Bournemouth, who is the author of four works of nonfiction blending biography, memoir, and cultural history, was praised for her "verve and wit", while "her eye for detail and her animated conversation brings readers to inhabit the lives of great philosophers". Critic and writer Laing, whose most recent work The Lonely City was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize, was meanwhile described as "a cartographer of human emotion" who through the arts "searches the depths of the self".

In the fiction category, Makumbi, who is also a short story writer, was chosen for opening up "a bold, innovatory vista in African letters encompassing ancient wounds that disquiet the present, offering restitution to be found in memory and ritual". Her debut novel, Kintu, about the fall of a cursed bloodline and the rise of modern Uganda won the Kwani? Manuscript Project Award in 2013 and was subsequently published by Oneworld in the UK.

Each of the prize winners will receive their awards at an international literary festival at Yale in September where the prize is based.