The prize was presented by the actress Joan Collins at lavish ceremony in central London on Tuesday night. As Manil Suri lives in America, a representative of his publishers, Bloomsbury, accepted it on his behalf.
The award is given to the author of the most egregious passage of sexual description in a novel this year - and the judges were won over by the climax of an extended sex scene involving all three characters in Devi's novel:
‘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.’
His publisher Bloomsbury said: “In accepting this award we challenge everyone to make up their own mind about Manil Suri’s T'he City of Devi'. As Tolstoy said in Anna Karenina, ‘There are as many kinds of love as there are hearts’. Take 'The City of Devi' home to bed with you tonight and discover sex scenes that the TLS praised as ‘unfettered, quirky, beautiful, tragic and wildly experimental,’ written by an author who, according to the Wall Street Journal, ‘captures the insecurity, the curiosity and even the comedy of those vulnerable moments’. As Jane Austen observed: ‘One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.’ Which half are you in?”
The City of Devi fought off stiff (as it were) competition - including Susan Choi’s 'My Education', Woody Guthrie’s 'House of Earth' and Eric Reinhardt’s 'The Victoria System'. Check out these (occasionally graphic) excerpts from some of the shortlisted passages below:
"She moves her hips, pushing him deeper into her all the time, and as she does so she whispers, ‘Fuck me now, Lawrence. Fuck me now.’"– 'Motherland' by William Nicholson
"So magnified and so keen were her feelings that her inner nerves could even feel the bumps, the ridges, the pimples, the few stray hairs along the shaft of his male rod."– 'House of Earth' by Woody Guthrie
"Weeping we knotted our bodies together, caressing and hushing each other, until we both must have slept, to awake it seemed many hours later, and gaze at each other in mute wonderment. ‘Fuck,’ she said, sitting up. ‘What the fuck time is it?’"
– 'My Education' by Susan Choi
"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' by Manil Suri
"I closed my eyes as well and moved inside her, imagining the ribbed flesh, the supple rings of muscle. Mauve and yellow flowers filled the blank screen of my eyelids, the petals loosening and drifting downwards on to smooth grey stone. I kissed the soft bristles in the hollow of her armpit, then I kissed the smaller hollow of her clavicle."– 'Secrecy' by Rupert Thomson
"But phew she too seemed to be surfing the waves of neuromuscular euphoria, so that as, sweating, panting, he bowed his forehead to her chest, she gripped him tight, her sharp nails stabbing; and then they were grinning and kissing each other’s noses, cheeks; and then they lay entangled for a moment, breathing; and then they rose, one after another, went for a piss, came back and settled into bed again."– 'The World Was All Before Them' by Matthew Reynolds
"In my mouth her nipple turned from strawberry to deep raspberry but the taste I wanted was missing. I had sweat and what had to be soap from washing her dress or herself. Reaching behind me, I found the Brie and broke off a fragment, sucking her nipple through it."– 'The Last Banquet' by Jonathan Grimwood
"Drops of sweat running down her temples shone through this incandescent lull like crystal ladybirds. I waited, tensed, tortured, for Victoria’s palms to start descending once again towards the elastic of my underwear." – 'The Victoria System' by Eric Reinhardt