The writer also picked up the Readers’ Prize, judged by Edge Hill students, at an awards ceremony tonight (5th July) at the Free Word Centre, London, for her first short story collection The Beautiful Indifference. ‘It’s so lovely to win both prizes,’ Sarah said on accepting the prizes, ‘especially when you know there has been a big debate about all of the shortlisted collections. To have such a diverse audience enjoy my work is amazing; it’s a mix of people in the literary world and students. In fact, I don’t know of any other prize where students get to read and choose the winner - I think it’s brilliant.’
The Beautiful Indifference is a collection of intensely erotic and disarming tales, which span centuries, contemporary life and the future, evoking landscapes as diverse as London’s metropolis and Lake Vuotjärvi in the Finnish wilderness.
This exquisite anthology embodies stories of an impulsive and startling nature: a woman who chooses not to save her drowning lover; a frustrated housewife who arranges an appointment with the mysterious ‘Agency’; a young girl enamoured with a notorious Cumbrian horse-breeding family who innocently unleashes their wrath. Each story rotates on an axis of survivalism – geographical, psychological and sexual – so that animals and humans alike are hunted and exposed across the pages. Sarah Hall has been described as ‘the greatest novelist of her generation’, and in this rich and immensely intoxicating collection she showcases her incredible talent for fusing narratives to sensual and alluring effect.
Speaking about this genre, she said: ‘I really love writing short stories; it’s my ideal form because it can be unsettling, allows you to go into dark corners and allows you to challenge the ordinary, which is what I enjoy. It’s taken me a while to have the confidence to write this way though because I never felt I was very good at structure or shape. But winning this award shows I can do it.’
Judges described a dark, fierce and sensual piece of fiction that gets to the heart of things. Judge Suzi Feay said: ‘It was an incredibly tough decision, we all spent a good deal of time talking about what we loved about each of the collections, and then we savaged them all to bits, and built them back up again. There were such high standards, but one had to win, which was Sarah’s for the beautiful way in which the collection was written.’
The Cumbrian writer is the author of Haweswater, which won the 2003 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel, a Society of Authors Betty Trask Award, and a Lakeland Book of the Year prize. Sarah’s four novels have already shown her to be a writer of extraordinary talents, whether in the rough magic of The Carhullan Army, about female resistance in a near-future police state, which was listed as one of The Times 100 Best Books of the Decade, or the passionate intertwined narratives of art and identity that make up the Booker-longlisted How to Paint a Dead Man, which also won the Portico Prize for Fiction 2010.
Born in 1974, she received a BA from Aberystwyth University, Wales, and an MLitt in Creative Writing from St Andrews, Scotland. She is an honorary fellow of Aberystwyth University and a fellow of the Civitella Ranieri Foundation (2007). She regularly tutors for the Faber Academy and the Arvon Foundation, and has taught creative writing in a variety of institutions in the UK and abroad.
14 Jul 2012