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Britain's Most Dreaded Literary Prize...

Manil Suri has won the 21st annual Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award, for The City of Devi (Bloomsbury). The prize was presented by Joan Collins, whose many roles, in a glamorous career spanning seven decades, have included Alexis Carrington in Dynasty. She is author of numerous volumes of fiction and autobiography. Her latest memoir, Passion for Life, was published by Constable in October.

The City of Devi is set in Mumbai as the city is locked-down under the threat of a nuclear bomb. It follows three characters: Sarita, her physicist husband Karun, who has disappeared, and Jaz, a young gay Muslim. Manil Suri lives in America and was unable to accept the prize in person. A representative of his publishers, Bloomsbury, accepted it on his behalf.

The judges were won over by the climax of an extended sex scene involving all three characters:

Surely supernovas explode that instant, somewhere, in some galaxy. The hut vanishes, and with it the sea and the sands - only Karun's body, locked with mine, remains. We streak like superheroes past suns and solar systems, we dive through shoals of quarks and atomic nuclei. In celebration of our breakthrough fourth star, statisticians the world over rejoice.

The City of Devi is Suri's third work of fiction. He has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Pen/Faulkner Award; he won the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize in 2002. He is a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland, where his research focuses on the numerical analysis of partial differential equations.

The awards were announced at a lavish ceremony on Tuesday 3 December 2013, at the In & Out (Naval & Military) Club in St James's Square, where the 400 guests raised a toast to the winner.

The City of Devi prevailed over strong competition including Susan Choi's My Education ('I seemed to come right away, with a hard, popping effervescence, as if her mouth had raised blisters, or an uppermost froth; but beneath, magma still heaved and groaned and was yearning to fling itself into the air'); Woody Guthrie's House of Earth ('And as she sucked the last drops of his blood and his seed into the folds of her innermost soul and self, she felt her whole body lift, pull, squeeze, then lift again, tremble, shake, and quiver, and in her fires of her stomach she strained and moved to bathe his blood into the rumble and the thunder of her own.'); and Eric Reinhardt's The Victoria System ('The zip of her skirt sputtered between her fingernails like a motorboat on a waveless sea ... My erection beat time in my underwear.')

The shortlist also included:

  • The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood
  • Motherland by William Nicholson
  • The World Was All Before Them by Matthew Reynolds
  • Secrecy by Rupert Thomson

Last year the prize was won by Nancy Huston for Infrared published by Atlantic. Other past winners include Jonathan Littell (2009), Rachel Johnson (2008) and Norman Mailer (2007). John Updike was awarded a Bad Sex Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

Literary Review's senior editor Jonathan Beckman describes what the Award is all about in The Independent. You will also be able to read a more detailed report on this year's shortlist in Literary Review's December / January double issue. For snippets from the shortlist, follow Literary Review's twitter account, @lit_review. The tweets are tagged as #BadSex.




John Murray


Royal Literary Fund