Dame Hermione Lee has been named the new chair of the David Cohen Prize for Literature, following in the footsteps of previous chairs Mark Lawson, as well as Andrew Motion and Michael Holroyd.
Lee, who is emeritus professor at the faculty of English at the university of Oxford, and a biographer and literary critic, was on the panel of judges for the 1999 prize. She has also judged a number of other awards, including the Booker Prize, the Hawthornden Prize and the Guardian First Book Prize.
Lee said: “I am delighted, honoured and excited to be appointed. I greatly admired David Cohen’s generosity, benevolence and intellectual curiosity and energy. This is a literary prize like no other (except the Nobel), and it has the added interest and value of allowing the winner to give a subsidiary prize, named after Clarissa Luard, to a writer or literary organisation of their choice. I am hugely looking forward to the diversity and range of reading which judging this prize will involve, and, I hope, to maintaining, with my fellow judges, the gold standard of this acclaimed and important literary award.”
The biennial £40,000 prize recognises writers in the UK and Republic of Ireland across all literary disciplines, for a lifetime's achievement. It was won last year by Edna O'Brien.
Claire Malcolm, c.e.o. of New Writing North, which administers the prize, said: “Hermione is wonderfully enthusiastic and really dazzled us with her understanding of the nature of the prize and its cherished place in the literary fabric. With her remarkable expertise and deep knowledge, she's the ideal person to take the David Cohen Prize forward into the future and we can’t wait to work with her.”