Possession author A S Byatt has won the €150,000 (£114,000) Erasmus Prize, given every year to a person or institution that has made an exceptional contribution to the humanities or arts.
The board of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation, the Dutch founder of the prize, gave the award to Byatt for her “inspiring contribution” to “life writing, a literary genre that encompasses historical novels, biographies and autobiographies”.
The jury said: “Byatt has written dozens of (historical) novels, biographies, short stories and critical essays. In a wide-ranging body of work she unites great erudition with an unbridled pleasure in writing and imaginative power. Her work crosses boundaries in style and content. It covers a range of genres, literary forms and subjects. She immerses the reader in the history of European thinking, taking the big questions about science, history and identity as her starting point.”
A S Byatt, born in Sheffield in 1936, was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1999. She won the Booker Prize in 1990 for Possession (Vintage) and was given the ‘Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ in France in 2003.
The Erasmus Prize, of which the King of the Netherlands is patron, will be presented in the autumn.