English PEN has announced the shortlist for the 2014 PEN/Ackerley Prize for Memoir, which includes books from Cape, Faber, Virago, Bloomsbury and Fig Tree.
The prize, established in memory of author and literary editor Joe Randolph Ackerley, is awarded to a literary autobiography of “outstanding merit”, written by a British author.
This year’s shortlist is made up of Julian Barnes’ Levels of Life (Cape); Stage Blood by Michael Blakemore (Faber); Sonali Deraniyagala’s Wave (Virago); Horace and Me by Harry Eyres (Bloomsbury)’ and Ammonites and Leaping Fish by Penelope Lively (Fig Tree).
Biographer and historian Peter Parker, who is chairing the judging panel for this year’s award, said: “As now seems usual, the books we considered for this year’s prize were very wide-ranging - emotionally, geographically and in their different approaches to the art of writing memoir.
“Our shortlist of five outstanding books reflects this, comprising a study in love and loss that also takes in the early days of photography and aeronautics; a bloody history of the creation and running of the National Theatre in the 1970s; a stark account of the devastating effects of the 2004 tsunami on one family in Sri Lanka; an enchanting story of a virtual friendship across the centuries between an Ancient Roman poet and a contemporary one; and a subtle meditation on time and memory from ‘beyond the horizon of old age’.”
The judging panel also includes writer and painter Colin Spencer, author Georgina Hammick, and historian and biographer Richard Davenport-Hines.
The winner, who will receive £3,000, will be announced at the English PEN summer party on Monday 14th July.
Last year’s winner was Richard Holloway for Leaving Alexandria: A Memoir of Faith and Doubt (Canongate).