The Borders Book Festival has this year awarded its annual Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction to John Spurling for his novel The Ten Thousand Things, which tells the story of 14th century Chinese painter Wang Meng. Spurling took the £25,000 prize over work from Martin Amis (The Zone of Interest), Helen Dunmore (The Lie), Hermione Eyre (Viper Eye), Adam Foulds (In the Wolf’s Mouth), Damon Galgut (Arctic Summer) and Kamila Shamsie (A God in Every Stone). Those other nominees each receive £1,000.
Alistair Moffat, chair of this year’s judging panel (which also included Elizabeth Laird, Louise Richardson, Jonathan Tweedie, Kirsty Wark and the Duchess of Buccleuch), says of this year’s prize:
From the audacity of Martin Amis’ concentration satire, to a post-modern mash-up of seventeenth-century court and contemporary references, via Sicily, India, Turkey and France, we journeyed and lived ten thousand lives ourselves during the reading and discussion of these books. In the end, it was the illumination shone by John Spurling on this fascinating and little-known period that lit us up for the longest time. It is a book which deserves enormous credit, and we hope that the Walter Scott Prize can help bring it for him.
This is the sixth year in which the award has been presented. Prior winners include Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Andrea Levy’s The Long Song and, most recently, Robert Harris’ An Officer and a Spy. In order to qualify, books must be written in English, first or simultaneously published in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth in the previous year, submitted by their publisher and set at least 60 years before the present day (as a nod to Walter Scott’s debut novel Waverley; Or, ‘Tis Sixty Years Since).
Earlier this year, the prize made its longlist public for the first time in its history, as a reflection of what Moffat called ‘the high quality of historical fiction being currently published’.