The Canadian-American author’s winning novel is about a bereaved boy who hears objects talking to him.
The prestigious literary prize was awarded June 15 to Canadian-American author Ruth Ozeki for her novel “The Book of Form and Void”. Now in its 27th year, the Women’s Prize for Fiction is awarded to an English-language writer from anywhere in the world whose voice rings true. The philosophical story of Ozeki is about a 14-year-old boy and his relationship with the objects in his house, which speak to him after the death of his father.
As the winner, Ozeki takes home £30,000 ($36,000 or €34,900) and a bronze figurine called Bessie, both funded by an anonymous donor. The recognition will in turn help the author to sell his books and get his name known to the public. “This is nonsense; I don’t win anything,” Ozeki said after receiving the award.
Ruth Ozeki: “A masterful storyteller”
2022 jury chair Mary Ann Sieghart described Ozeki as “a truly original and masterful storyteller” and said her book “stands out for its bubbly writing, warmth, intelligence, humor and emotion. a celebration of the power of books and reading, it tackles big issues of life and death, and is a total joy to read.
Ozeki, 66, is also an English teacher, filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest. She said she started meditating on people’s relationships with objects while cleaning up her late parents’ house. “As children, things always speak to us and we always make things speak,” she added. “And [I was] trying to reconnect with that fantasy world, what it’s like to be a kid and see the whole world as alive,” she explained of the idea behind her novel.
All the competition
The 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist included just six writers and the themes ranged from a book told by a tree to the experience of one of the first female aviators in Antarctica. Ozeki, the daughter of American and Japanese parents, was considered a long shot in the competition’s shortlist, which featured novels from a wide range of English-language authors.
One of the shortlisted books was “The Bread the Devil Knead,” by Trinidadian author Lisa Allen-Agostini. It tells the story of Lisa, 40, who, despite her confident outward appearance, covers the blues from an abusive relationship. A new book by Turkish-British novelist Elif Shafak, author of other popular books such as “The 40 Rules of Love” and “The Bastard of Istanbul”, was also in the running. Entitled “The Island of Lost Trees”, it is about a forbidden love between a Greek Christian and a Turkish Muslim on the divided island of Cyprus. Other shortlisted works were ‘Sorrow and Bliss’ by New Zealand author Meg Mason, ‘Great Circle’ by American writer Maggie Shipstead and ‘The Sentence’ by American writer Louise Erdrich.
The 2021 winner was English author Susanna Clarke for her book ‘Piranesi’, about a lonely figure living in a place of wonder called Home, who uncovers dark secrets. Other past winners include Zadie Smith, Tayari Jones and Maggie O’Farrell.
Celebrating the creative achievements of women
The prize has long sought to make the voices of women writers heard. “The goal is always to celebrate the creative achievements of women and international writing, while stimulating debate about gender and writing, gender and reading, and how publishing and criticism work “, reads the website of the award.
The idea for the award originated in 1992 when a group of booksellers, journalists, librarians and others in the UK publishing industry set out to remedy the fact that before that year, only 10% of novelists shortlisted for the Booker Prize had been women – despite the fact that 60% of books on the market were written by women. The group has launched a new award to recognize female fiction writers and inspire more readers, especially men, to choose books written by women.
Since its inception, the Women’s Prize for Fiction has become one of the most prestigious prizes in the literary field. The judging panel is also made up entirely of women, as “the founders wanted to celebrate women’s critical opinions as well as their creative achievements,” the award’s website says. “I feel like I wouldn’t be writing if it weren’t for the support of women and women’s institutions,” Ozeki said in his address.