Peter Forbes was announced as the winner of the £50,000 Warwick Prize for Writing on Tuesday 22 March 2011 for his fascinating story of mimicry and camouflage in science, art and the natural world.
This unique biennial prize, launched in 2009, is run and self-funded by the University. It is an international cross-disciplinary award open to any genre or form of writing.
Peter Forbes, a writer, journalist and editor with a longstanding interest in the relationship between science and art, was one of six authors shortlisted. On receiving his award he said:
"In an over-specialized world, the multi-disciplinary Warwick Prize is an oasis of genre-busting. With its themes, stressing content as well as writing, it seemed a brilliant idea to me when launched. But I couldn’t imagine, when I was writing Dazzled and Deceived, with its flaunted and concealing colours in nature, art and warfare, that some kind of convergence of the twain would see its theme chime with that of the Prize in its second outing. Now that the book has won, it feels like more than a Prize: to me it feels like a vindication of a life spent bouncing science off art and vice versa. The fact that the Prize comes from an academic institution that has always championed imaginative writing and that the book was chosen by an exceptionally creative group of judges makes it all the more precious."
Interpreting the theme of this year's prize of 'colour' in different ways, the shortlisted works included an 'unvarnished truth' about apartheid South Africa; a tale about the aftermath of civil war in Sierra Leone; a lyrically written novel about contemporary Afghanistan; an anthropologist’s meditation on the mysteries of color and poems recalling the Caribbean’s complex colonial legacy.
The judging panel was chaired by the broadcaster, children's novelist, poet and author of 140 books, Michael Rosen. He explained:
"Dazzled and Deceived, Mimicry and Camouflage was singled out for a number of reasons. It’s a book about scientific concepts; it’s a book about art and it’s actually an exciting read because Forbes does what all good storytellers do – he reveals and conceals in equal measure. It is also a book of massive surprises. How does he bring the surrealists into this? I was delighted to revisit my old friends the melanin moths who were the standby of A-Level and first year university teaching about evolution. At one moment I thought the whole story was going down the pan. Would my education be in ruins? But no, Forbes pulled the moths from the fire!"
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nigel Thrift, added:
"I am delighted to give the Warwick Prize for Writing award to author Peter Forbes for his book Dazzled and Deceived. It is a great work by an accomplished writer, who is well established in his career. However I am equally delighted to announce today that the University of Warwick is to offer two £5,000 bursaries for undergraduate students wishing to study on Warwick's English Literature and Creative Writing undergraduate degree programme. This will give two young people the chance to start a journey which may lead to them producing their own award winning writing."
As part of his prize Peter Forbes is taking up a residency at some point over the next eighteen months, details of which are to be confirmed between him and the University.
Joining Michael Rosen on the judging panel was The Times Literary Editor Erica Wagner; crossbench peer Lola Young; author and editorial director of Chatto & Windus Jenny Uglow and Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Thrift.