Patrick McGuinness wins Duff Cooper Prize 2014
20 Feb 2015: Colleagues will be delighted to know that Professor Patrick McGuinness was last night awarded the Duff Cooper Prize for his latest novel, Other People’s Countries, a Journey into Memory (Jonathan Cape). The award was made at a reception at the French Ambassador’s Residence, sponsored by Pol Roger. The prestigious literary prize was founded following Duff Cooper’s death in 1954, to “celebrate the best in non-fiction writing”, and recent winners have included Lucy Hughes-Hallett (on D’Annunzio), Sue Prideaux (on Strindberg), Sarah Bakewell (on Montaigne), Robert Service (on Trotsky) and Graham Robb (Discovery of France).
“McGuinness has written the great book on Belgium and modern memory, or even Belgium and modern being. He takes his place among those singers and painters of the haunted, the melancholy, the diminished, the caricatural, the humdrum: Ensor, Rodenbach, Sax, Huysmans, Simenon and Magritte” (The Guardian).
“McGuinness, poet and Professor of Modern Languages, is the best advocate for Belgium since Poirot and Tintin, who were imaginary, and Simenon, who invented himself. McGuinness celebrates an ordinariness so entrenched as to seem supernatural: the Sunday post-lunch torpor of relatives with not much to say; the ritual sulphurous stench of the bathroom; the corridor of a terraced house used to conduct a dressmaking business, with a cupboard as a changing cubicle. Under McGuinness’s attention all this, and all the other glimpsed and overheard life, become fascinating, charming, poignant, comic, daft at times, and absolutely deserving of the effort to preserve and transmit an intimate strangeness” (The Independent).
This distinction follows a series of other literary prizes for his poetry and his fiction, not least for The Last Hundred Days (Seren 2011), which was longlisted for the Man Booker 2011, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and other prizes, and won the Writers Guild Award 2012; in its French translation (2013) it was selected for the Prix Médicis and the Prix Fémina, and won the Prix du Premier Roman étranger.
The Modern Languages Faculty extends to him its warmest congratulations.