My working life is never dull. This was illustrated in spades at the beginning of the month when I found myself on the Eurostar, hurtling towards Madame Bollinger’s house in Ay, in the Champagne region.
I was on the trip to accompany the three judges of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, the U.K.’s only award for humorous writing. The judges - broadcaster and author, James Naughtie; Everyman’s Library publisher, David Campbell, and a Vice President of the Hay Festival and Director of National Trust Wales, Justin Albert - normally meet in London but this year they decided to choose the shortlist with the aid of a glass or two of Bollinger La Grande Année, at the world famous home of Madame Bollinger. (I discovered incidentally that she, Lily Bollinger, was a formidable woman of Scottish descent who took over the running of the House on the death of her husband, Jacques.)
The six writers on the shortlist are Helen Fielding, Carl Hiaasen, James Robertson, Richard Russo, Nina Stibbe and Simon Wroe. As is customary, the 2017 winner will be announced just ahead of the Hay Festival at the end of May and will receive a jeroboam of Bollinger Special Cuvée, a case of Bollinger La Grande Année and the complete set of the Everyman Wodehouse collection. The winner will also be presented with a locally-bred Gloucestershire Old Spot pig, which will be named after the winning novel in a special celebration – doubtless involving the consumption of yet further ‘Bolly’. As I say, my working life is never dull….
Hannah and Miriam meantime have been in Abu Dhabi looking after the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. This is the 10th year of the prize, which we have handled since it was set up, and in that time it has become the most prestigious and important literary prize in the Arab world. The awards ceremony was held in the Fairmount Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
A Small Death by Mohammed Hasan Alwan, published by Dar Al Saqi, was named as this year’s chosen winner by the Chair of Judges, Palestinian novelist Sahar Khalifeh. In addition to winning $50,000, funding will be provided for the English translation of A Small Death, and Alwan can expect an increase in book sales and international recognition. The novel was chosen from 186 novels submitted from 19 countries.
Also going from strength to strength is the Man Booker Prize for International Fiction which changed its format in 2016 and now works to the same model as the Man Booker Prize for Fiction - the difference being that the MBI rewards fiction in translation. Our shortlist was announced last week at a positively effervescent party in the Orangery and the winners will be announced at a dinner in the V&A on Wednesday 14 June. I say ‘winners’ because, uniquely, the £50,000 prize money is shared equally between the writer and the translator of the winning book.
We’ve confirmed some lovely new clients during May. An Post – the Irish postal and courier service - have commissioned our events manager, Miriam, to organise a day at the races for some of their top UK clients. We’ll have more on that next month.
Also you must look out for the Doppia Firma exhibition at London’s Hospital Club, brought to you by our new client, the Michelangelo Foundation as part of London Craft Week. There are some beautiful pieces on display and it’s really well worth a visit.
We’re in discussion with the director of a super new literary festival about her plans for the October event - it’s all under wraps for now but I’ll tell you more as soon as I can. And finally we’re going to be working with Four’s Public Affairs practice on a very exciting Fortune 100 women’s conference, sponsored and organised by Time Inc.
So, plenty to be getting on with there! I’ll report on our progress next month.