UK writer Tessa Hadley has won a Windham-Campbell Prize, worth $150,000 (£107,000).
The American literary prize, established at Yale University in 2013 with use of a gift from the late Donald Windham, honours English-language authors who have “left their mark on the world of literature and theatre” - or have been judged by their peers as “exceedingly likely to do so”. It stretches across fiction, non-fiction and drama, and in 2017 the prize will expand to include poetry. Each of the nine recipients receive a $150,000 award.
Hadley, who published her first novel in 2002 at the age of 46, won the prize for her fiction, said to “brilliantly illuminate ordinary lives with extraordinary prose that is superbly controlled, psychologically acute, and subtly powerful”.
Twice a finalist for the Orange Prize, she published Clever Girl in 2013, described as “a complex and vivid portrait of a woman’s life in the second half of the twentieth century”, while her most recent novel, The Past (2016), follows four siblings on a three-week summer holiday in the old house that they have inherited. Her publisher is Jonathan Cape.
The Cambridge graduate who now teaches creative writing at Bath Spa University, said: “I feel honoured and astonished and delighted: this generous prize will make so many things easier, it buys time and freedom. It's still marvellous to me that the words a writer dreams up in solitude can speak to strangers—winning this is so reassuring and encouraging.”
Northern Irish playwright Abbie Spallen also won a prize in the prize's drama category. Because there is no submission process for the prize, she reportedly throught it was "a scam at first", according to the Irish Times.
She joins winners in her category Branden Jacobs-Jenkins from Washington DC and Hannah Moscovitch from Canada.
In fiction, C.E. Morgan from the US also won prize money for her “ambitious fiction” exploring poverty and complications of race in America, alongside Jerry Pinto from Goa in India. In non-fiction, Brooklyn-born Hilton Als, Stanley Crouch, won a prize as an “iconoclastic and polemical voice in American culture” and Australian Helen Garner did also for her “acute observations and narrative skill to bear on the conflicts and tragedies of contemporary Australian life”.
Past recipients have included the late James Salter, Naomi Wallace, and Teju Cole.
Judged anonymously, the Windham-Campbell Prizes have no submission process, so writers are unaware that they are in the running with most “genuinely surprised" when they receive the phone call from the prize’s director, Michael Kelleher.
Prize recipients will gather from around the world at Yale in September for an international literary festival celebrating their work. Events are free and open to the public.