Six novels selected as century's 'best of the best'
23rd October 2012 - 10:20am
Six acclaimed authors from the past century have been shortlisted for a prize to recognise the best ever winner of Britain's oldest literary award.
Novels by Angela Carter, Graham Greene, James Kelman, Cormac McCarthy, Caryl Phillips and Muriel Spark are in the running for the James
Tait Black accolade.
The one-off Best of the James Tait Black Prize will honour the novel deemed to be the finest to have won the award since it was created in 1919 and is being presented in celebration of the 250th anniversary of English literature study at the University of Edinburgh.
The oldest title on the shortlist is Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter, which won the prize in 1948. Its central character is a police officer in west Africa and the novel draws on Greene's experience as an intelligence officer in Sierra Leone.
Muriel Spark's The Mandelbaum Gate, which won in 1965, is set in Jerusalem in the early sixties and examines issues including the Holocaust.
Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus, which won the prize in 1984, is the story of circus performer Sophie Fevvers, who claims to have been hatched from an egg and grown wings.
A Disaffection by James Kelman was awarded the James Tait Black Prize in 1993. It is a groundbreaking study of love and loss told through Patrick Doyle, a young teacher.
Crossing The River by Caryl Phillips, which shared the prize in 1993, is a story about three black people during different stages in history.
Cormac McCarthy's The Road, winner of the prize in 2006, is a post-apocalyptic tale of a father and his son making their way across a desolate landscape.
The shortlist was selected by academics and students at the University of Edinburgh and the winner will be chosen by a judging panel including broadcaster Kirsty Wark and writer Alan Warner.
Professor Greg Walker, chair of the James Tait Black Prizes, said: 'This best of the best award is a wonderful opportunity to revisit some of the best writers in the literary canon.
'It is fitting in the year of celebration of 250 years of study of English literature at the University of Edinburgh that we recognise the wonderful contribution this prize makes to honouring great literature.'
The James Tait Black Memorial Prizes were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, to commemorate her husband's love of reading.
The victorious 'best of the best' book will be announced in December.