Erasmus Prize 2016 awarded to A.S.Byatt

The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation has awarded the 2016 Erasmus Prize to the British author Dame Antonia Susan Byatt (1936). She receives the prize for her inspiring contribution to ‘life writing’, a literary genre that encompasses historical novels, biographies and autobiographies. The jury describes A.S. Byatt as a born storyteller with a keen eye for relations in public and private life. The Erasmus Prize is awarded annually to a person or institution that has made an exceptional contribution to the humanities or the arts, the prize consists of a cash prize of €150,000. Previous winners include Henry Moore, Isaiah Berlin and the Wikipedia Community.

Byatt has written dozens of (historical) novels, biographies, short stories and critical essays. In a wide-ranging body of work she unites great erudition with an unbridled pleasure in writing and imaginative power. Her work crosses boundaries in style and content. It covers a range of genres, literary forms and subjects. She immerses the reader in the history of European thinking, taking the big questions about science, history and identity as her starting point.

Among her recurring themes are the influence of art on life, magic and realism, and the conflict between ambition and family. Her body of work brings together not only artists and academics, but also fairy tales and myths. Many of her novels, including The Biographer’s Tale and Possession, explore the act of writing a biography or conducting research. In the process, she has reshaped the genre of life writing in her own way. The Erasmus prize adds to many literary accolades Dame Antonia Byatt has received from around the world, among them the Booker Prize in 1990 and the Shakespeare Prize in 2002.

This year Dame Antonia Byatt celebrates her 80th birthday and in July Chatto and Windus will be publishing Peacock and Vine: Fortuny and Morris in life and at work, an enquiry into the creative impulse – as seen through the work and lives of Mariano Fortuny and William Morris.

Clara Farmer, Publishing Director at Chatto & Windus says ‘Dame Antonia is one of our finest novelists, steeped in the European tradition and engaged by the lives and imaginations of other great minds. The Erasmus Prize is a great honour, and one to celebrate, coming as it does in her 80th year. Particularly appropriate, too, as we prepare to publish her alluring essay on two major European artists and craftsmen, Mariano Fortuny and William Morris.’

Dame Antonia Byatt will be presented the Erasmus prize at an award ceremony at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam in the autumn of 2016.


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