Philip Roth was honoured as the winner of the 2011 Man Booker International Prize at an awards dinner held at Banqueting House, Whitehall on Tuesday 28 June 2011.
Roth was unable to attend and the prize was accepted on his behalf by author and academic Hermione Lee. Roth, in a short film played to the guests, acknowledged receipt of the ‘esteemed award’ by ‘reading a few pages from my 2010 book Nemesis.’ He said that he chose the reading because ‘coming where they do, they are the pages I like best in Nemesis. They constitute the last pages of the last work of fiction I’ve published, the end of the line after 31 books.’
Dr Rick Gekoski, the chair of the 2011 judges, delivered a speech in honour of Philip Roth. He said: ‘As a reader you cannot but respond, and you have a choice. You can decide that you are being bullied, hectored, asked too much for too little, and walk away. Or you may believe, as I do, that the fierceness of the demands of a Roth novel is so potent, the quality of the intelligence and narrative gift so percipient, and the issues of such importance, that you are positively anxious to come out for the next round.’
In accepting the award Hermione Lee said: ’Philip Roth is the great literary adventurer, performer, and self-transformer of this and the last century. He has been one of the giants of American fiction for over 50 years, with a following across the world, and the award of the International Man Booker for his life’s work is a welcome recognition of his audacity, energy, imaginative courage, comic bravura and historical seriousness.’
In revisiting him over these last months, I've been struck by how various his work is, how styles and topics and themes appear, work themselves out, and morph into something quite different. It is remarkable, to use a boxing metaphor, how full of ringcraft his mature fiction is.
Between 2005 - 2015, the Man Booker International Prize recognised one writer for their achievement in fiction.
Worth £60,000, the prize was awarded every two years to a living author who had published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language.
The winner was chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel and there were no submissions from publishers.
The Man Booker International Prize was different from the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction in that it highlighted one writer’s overall contribution to fiction on the world stage. In focusing on overall literary excellence, the judges considered a writer’s body of work rather than a single novel.