Australian writer Richard Flanagan’s reputation remains unsoiled after he missed out on a bad sex writing award to fellow Booker Prize winner Ben Okri.
Flanagan was nominated for the annual Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award but the dubious accolade instead went to Okri for a passage which concludes “somewhere in the night a stray rocket went off”.
The judges from the British literary magazine were swayed by what they said was an “ecstatic scene” from Okri’s The Age of Magic which compares foreplay to turning on a light switch.
“When his hand brushed her nipple it tripped a switch and she came alight,” the passage reads.
“On warm currents, no longer of this world, she became aware of him gliding into her.
“She felt certain now that there was a heaven and that it was here, in her body. The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her.”
Then that stray rocket does its thing.
Okri was unable to attend the award ceremony in central London on Wednesday night.
But his editor, Maggie McKernan, said in a statement: “Winning the award is fun but a bit undignified, just like sex, assuming you do it properly.”
The winner himself said in a statement: “A writer writes what they write and that’s all there is to it.”
The Literary Review says the purpose of its award is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction and to discourage them.
The prize doesn’t cover pornography or erotic literature.
Flanagan won this year’s Booker Prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North which is inspired by the story of Australian prisoners of war forced to work on the Burma Railway.
The Tasmanian was shortlisted for the bad sex award for a passage which describes an encounter between the main character, Dorrigo Evans, and his uncle’s wife.
“He felt the improbable weight of her eyelash with his own; he kissed the slight, rose-coloured trench that remained from her knicker elastic, running around her belly like the equator line circling the world,” Flanagan writes.
“As they lost themselves in the circumnavigation of each other, there came from nearby shrill shrieks that ended in a deeper howl.
“Dorrigo looked up. A large dog stood at the top of the dune. Above blood-jagged drool, its slobbery mouth clutched a twitching fairy penguin.”
Okri won the award from a shortlist of 10 which included former Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham and Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami.
The 55-year-old African author won the Booker Prize in 1991 for The Famished Road.