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Warwick Prize for Writing announces first ever shortlist


  • Diverse shortlist sees six different genres compete for £50, 000 prize
  • Scientist and music critic vie with novelist and political journalists

The Warwick Prize for Writing has announced its first ever shortlist. The unique prize, open to all genres and nationalities, reveals an eclectic shortlist of six international titles. 

The £50, 000 inaugural prize, run and entirely funded by the University of Warwick, stands out as an international cross-disciplinary biennial award open to substantial pieces of writing in the English language, in any genre or form.

This year’s prize theme of ‘complexity’ is interpreted differently by all six shortlisted writers, all experts in their diverse fields. Themes range from global political corruption, female psychology, 20th century music, scientific theories on religion to a Spanish literary fiction puzzle.

The six shortlisted titles chosen from a longlist of 20 are:

Mad, Bad and Sad:
A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800
 Lisa Appignanesi 
The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed Bishop Gerardi?
 Francisco Goldman 
Atlantic Books 
Reinventing the Sacred 
 Stuart A Kauffman 
Perseus - Basic Books
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism 
 Naomi Klein 
The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century 
 Alex Ross 
4th Estate, Harper Collins 
Montano's Malady 
 Enrique Vila-Matas (translator: Jonathan Dunne)
New Directions 

Chair judge China Miéville comments: 'Working through a longlist of such quality and variety, selecting a few excellent books from so many, has been exactly the kind of agonised pleasure you'd think. Every one of the titles on this shortlist is here because all the judges agreed that it is doing something new, doing something complex, and doing them brilliantly.'

The judging panel includes journalist Maya Jaggi; novelist, translator and academic Maureen Freely; Britain’s first book blogger Stephen Mitchelmore and University of Warwick mathematician Professor Ian Stewart.

The winner will be announced on 24 February 2009 at the University of Warwick.
To find out more visit the shortlist pages.

- Ends -

For further information on The Warwick Prize for Writing please contact:
Elise Oliver or Ruth Cairns at Colman Getty
Tel: 020 7631 2666  Fax: 020 7631 2699

Email: or

For further information on the University of Warwick please contact:
Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager at the University of Warwick
Tel:  02476 523708 or 07767 655860

Notes to Editors

  • The University of Warwick is one of the UK’s leading research universities. Consistently ranked in the top 10 of all the University league tables produced by UK national newspapers and  ranked 7th among the UK's 100 universities for quality of research (Funding Councils' Research Assessment Exercise, 2008)
  • The £50,000 Warwick Prize is entirely self-funded by the University of Warwick.  The University is able to make such an investment as it generates 63% of its own income
  • The Warwick Prize for Writing is an innovative new literature prize that involves global competition, and crosses all disciplines. The Prize will be given biennially for an excellent and substantial piece of writing in the English language, in any genre or form, on a theme which will change with every award
  • The winner will be announced on 24 February 2009 at the University of Warwick. In addition to the £50,000 monetary prize, the winning author will be awarded the opportunity to take up a short placement at the University of Warwick
  • Submissions may be translations of a work first published in another language. If so, the submission must be the first English translation and must have appeared for the first time within the stated prize period. The prize for such a work will be divided between the original author and the translator in the ratio 70:30

The 2009 Warwick Prize for Writing Shortlist:

Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 by Lisa Appignanesi (Virago)

About the Book
Lisa Appignanesi’s brilliantly researched study of the relationship between women, mental illness and the mind doctors - one of the few to look at the full range of the ‘psy’ professions - reveals why this subject is so complex and fascinating.   Using riveting documented cases - from the depression suffered by Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath to the mental anguish and addictions of iconic beauties, Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, Appignanesi explores how the treatment of women has contributed hugely to the growth of understanding in the profession.
About the Author
Lisa Appignanesi is a novelist, writer and broadcaster. She is President of English PEN, the founding centre of the world association of writers. 
Previous writing includes the novel The Memory Man (Arcadia), the psychological thrillers Paris Requiem, Sanctuary, The Dead of Winter (Bantam) as well as The Things we do for Love, A Good Women, Dreams of Innocence and Memory and Desire (Harper Collins).
Her non-fiction includes the much praised family memoir, Losing the Dead (Chatto/Vintage).  She has also written a life of Simone de Beauvoir, (Haus 2005) and is co-author of the classic study, Freud’s Women with John Forrester (3rd edition, Phoenix, 2005). A former university lecturer and Deputy Director of London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, she co-edited The Rushdie File and initiated and edited the important Documents series.

The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed Bishop Gerardi? by Francisco Goldman (Atlantic Books)

About the Book
The Art of Political Murder is the first non-fiction book from acclaimed novelist Francisco Goldman and is the story of the seven-year investigation into the murder of a Guatemalan Bishop.
Bishop Juan Gerardi, Guatemala’s leading human rights activist, was bludgeoned to death in the garage of his parish house on the evening of Sunday 26 April 1998.  This took place just two days after the presentation of a groundbreaking church-sponsored report implicating the military in the murders and disappearances of some two hundred thousand civilians. Known in Guatemala as “The Crime of the Century,” the case confounded observers and generated extraordinary controversy. For seven years, Francisco Goldman has closely followed the efforts to uncover the truth; the killing or forced exile of multiple witnesses, judges, and prosecutors; the brave struggle of the church’s legal team; and the efforts of one courageous prosecutor to solve the case and bring the killers to justice.
About the Author
Francisco Goldman’s first novel, The Long Night of White Chickens, won the Sue Kaufman Prize for first fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The Ordinary Seaman, his second novel, was a finalist for the International IMPAC-Dublin Literary Award. Both novels were finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Goldman’s novel The Divine Husband was published by Atlantic Books in 2006. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, New York Times Magazine, and New York Review of Books. His latest book, The Art of Political Murder (Atlantic 2008), won the 2008 TR Fyvel Freedom of Expression Book Award from the Index on Censorship and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction 2008.

Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason and Religion by Stuart A. Kauffman (Perseus – Basic Books)

About the Book
Kauffman shows why reductionism is an inadequate theory to explain the infinite possibilities of the evolution of the biosphere, human economic life, and human history. Instead, he offers a radical new worldview: the natural universe contains a ceaseless creativity that simply can’t be predicted. It is this creativity in the cosmos – not a supernatural “Creator God” – that should be viewed as divine.
With examples ranging from DNA and cell differentiation to Darwinian preadaptation, consciousness, and human technological advances, he argues that not everything that happens in the universe is governed by natural laws.
According to Kauffman, we do not lack sufficient knowledge or wisdom to predict the future evolution of the biosphere, economy, or human culture. Rather, it is that these things are inherently beyond prediction.
About the Author
Stuart A. Kauffman is well-known for his research in theoretical biology and as a pioneer in the field of complexity theory. He is the founding director of the Institute for Biocomplexity and Informatics, and a professor at the University of Calgary. During the 1990s he rose to prominence through his key role at the Santa Fe Institute, where he is currently External Professor. His previous books include The Origins of Order, Investigations, and At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity. He lives in Calgary, Canada.

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein (Penguin)

About the Book
Based on breakthrough historical research and four years of on-the-ground reporting, Naomi Klein explores the theory that our world is increasingly in thrall to a little understood ideology that is conquering the globe by systematically exploiting moments of disaster and trauma. This is the shock doctrine.
Using detailed case studies from around the world, Klein explores how the shock doctrine uses moments of collective crisis – 9/11, the tsunami, Hurricane Katrina or the Falklands war for example – to usher in radical social and economic change beneficial to Wild West corporations when people are traumatised: effectively, when they are in a state of shock. Klein coins this phenomenon disaster capitalism.
About the Author
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, author and filmmaker. Her first book, the international bestseller No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, was translated into 28 languages and called “a movement bible” by The New York Times. She writes an internationally syndicated column for The Nation and The Guardian and reported from Iraq for Harper’s magazine. In 2004, she released The Take, a feature documentary about Argentina’s occupied factories, co-produced with director Avi Lewis. She is a former Miliband Fellow at the London School of Economics and holds an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws from the University of King’s College, Nova Scotia.

The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross (4th Estate, Harper Collins)

About the Book
In The Rest is Noise, Alex Ross, music critic to the New Yorker, gives us a riveting tour of the wild landscape of twentieth-century classical music with portraits of individuals, cultures and nations that reveal the predicament of the individual composer in a century of noise.
In the crashing finale, Ross combines his themes of musical politics, political music and the predicament of the solitary voice with an examination of progressive pop artists such as The Velvet Underground and Brian Eno, demonstrating how classical and modern traditions have been re-invented in the digital era, and showing what the future holds for music and its relationship to a chaotic world.
About the Author
Alex Ross has been the music critic of The New Yorker magazine since 1996. His work has also appeared in The New Republic, Slate, and the London Review of Books. He has been featured in Best American Essays, Da Capo Best Music Writing, and Studio A: The Bob Dylan Reader. He has received two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards for music criticism and a Holtzbrinck fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin.

Montano's Malady by Enrique Vila-Matas, translator Jonathan Dunne (New Directions)

About the Book
A traveling obsessive writer, coming to terms with a life of loss and pain, overstimulates himself on his favourite writers to the point that fiction and reality become indistinguishable.
In Enrique Vila-Matas prize-winning novel, Montano’s Malady, we encounter a cornucopia of writing styles by Jose, a writer obsessively searching for the ‘golden mean’ between the fictive and the actual.  Utilizing the novel, the diary, the memoir, and philosophical musings juxtaposed within and throughout the voices of Cervantes, Sterne, Kafka, Walser, Bolano, and Sebald to create an orchestrated cacophony of literature, Jose guides the reader as they journey to European cities and South American ports.
About the Author
Enrique Vila-Matas was born in Barcelona in 1948. He studied law and journalism, and in 1968 became a columnist for the magazine Film Framesr. In 1971, he performed military service in Melilla, where in the back of a military grocer's shop he wrote his first book, Women in the Mirror Contemplating the Landscape.
He is a Knight of the Legion of Honor from France and has been awarded many literary prizes including the prize city of Barcelona and the Romulo Gallegos (2001), the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger and Fernando Aguirre-Libralire (2002) and the prize of Critics Circle Chile (2003). In September 2007 he won the literary prize Elsa Morante Scrittori del Mondo, which rewards "to an important foreign author."
Enrique Vila-Matas’ work has been translated so far into 29 languages.
About the Translator
Jonathan Dunne has translated Bartleby & Co. and Montano’s Malady, by Enrique Vila-Matas, as well as a number of other books from Spanish, Catalan, Galician, and Bulgarian.  His work has been nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Weidenfeld Translation Prize.