Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

One sentence story writer honoured

Lydia Davis is congratulated by publisher Simon Prosser as she wins this year's Man Booker International Prize
Lydia Davis is congratulated by publisher Simon Prosser as she wins this year's Man Booker International Prize

An author who pens stories the length of a sentence has scooped this year's Man Booker International Prize.

American writer Lydia Davis has written some short stories of conventional length but most range from one to three pages while others are just a paragraph or sentence long.

Davis was picked from a shortlist of 10 names to win the fifth Man Booker International Prize, which is presented once every two years for "achievement in fiction on the world stage".

The £60,000 prize is awarded to a living author for a body of work published originally in English or available in translation in English. Davis' stories are among the shortest ever written and she has been described as "the master of a literary form largely of her own invention".

One of her shortest stories, A Double Negative, read simply: "At a certain point in her life, she realises it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child."

The author has said of her own writing: "I think as long as there's a bit of narrative, or just a situation, I can get away with calling them stories."

She began to write miniature stories while translating French novelist Proust, of which she has said: "I had almost no time to do my own writing, but didn't want to stop. And it was a reaction to Proust's very long sentences.

"The sheer length of a thought of his didn't make me recoil exactly - I loved working on it - but it made me want to see how short a piece of fiction could be that would still have a point to it, and not just be a throwaway joke."

Davis, who lives in New York, was announced as the winner at a ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Professor Sir Christopher Ricks, chairman of the judging panel, said it was difficult to categorise her writing.

He added: "Should we simply concur with the official title and dub them stories? Or perhaps miniatures? Anecdotes? Essays? Jokes? Parables? Fables? Texts? Aphorisms, or even apophthegms? Prayers, or perhaps wisdom literature? Or might we settle for observations?"

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