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James Tait Black Memorial Prize shortlists announced

17th May 2012

The two shortlists for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, considered among the most respected literary awards in publishing, have been announced.

Inaugurated in 1919 and named after the famous publisher who co-founded A & C Black, the prize comprises two awards – one for the finest biography published in the previous calendar year and an equivalent prize for the best work of fiction.

Four writers are in contention in each category, with the late American historian and critic Manning Marable, who was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize this year, nominated in the biography category for Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.

He is up against Ian Donaldson's Ben Jonson: A Life, The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination by Fiona MacCarthy and Susie Harries' Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life.

The fiction prize nominees include A. D. Miller, who is in contention with his Man Booker Prize-nominated novel Snowdrops.

The shortlist is completed by Belinda McKeon's Solace, You and I by Padgett Powell and There but for the by Ali Smith, who receives her second nomination.

The James Tait Black awards are the only major British book prizes judged by scholars and students of literature and, combined with their considerable heritage, are among the most well-respected literary awards in the UK.

Professor Jonathan Wild, deputy director of the Centre for the History of the Book at the University of Edinburgh, which presents the awards, said that choosing a winner from each shortlist will not be easy.

'The quality of works we considered this year was top notch, which made the shortlisting process even more difficult. It promises to be a memorable year for the prizes as we celebrate the 250th anniversary of English literature at the university,' he added.

The winners will be announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on August 25th, with the event also featuring the announcement of The Best of James Tait Black Prize, which celebrates the fiction winners from the past 93 years.

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