Keith Ridgway and Amit Chaudhuri win £10,000 James Tait Black Prizes

London-based Dubliner awarded fiction prize for A Shock; Indian author and singer wins biography prize for Finding the Raga: An Improvisation on Indian Music

An interweaving series of vignettes set in south London by Irish author Keith Ridgway and a journey into Indian classical music by Amit Chaudhuri have won Britain’s longest-running literary awards, the James Tait Black Prizes, awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh.

The winners of the £10,000 prizes were announced by author and broadcaster Sally Magnusson at Edinburgh College of Art this evening as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Chaudhuri won the biography prize for Finding the Raga: An Improvisation on Indian Music (Faber), a mesmerising exploration of the author’s relationship with North Indian classical music.

Ridgway won the fiction prize for A Shock (Picador), his first novel in nine years. It follows several different characters living in south London. Over nine overlapping chapters the novel shines a spotlight on their lives and relationships. Irish Times reviewer Sarah Gilmartin called it “intricate, clever and compassionate – a novel-in-stories to be read in the shade”.


In an interview with The Irish Times last year, Ridgway told John Self: “I’m going to get people insisting that this is a short story collection, and it’s absolutely not, it’s a novel. It’s a polyptych, one of those altar pieces made of panels. You can take one of the panels away but they only really work together.”

Along with his previous two books, Hawthorn & Child (2012) and Animals (2006), A Shock forms a loose London trilogy by the Dublin-born author. “I’m an Irish writer, I have an Irish passport. At the minute I just happen to be writing London books. I feel much more like a Dubliner than I do an Irish person. And now I feel like a Dubliner and a Londoner. I certainly don’t feel English, but I am a Londoner.”

“When I’m writing characters,” says Ridgway, “I kind of need to fall in love with them.” The central chapter of the book, The Story, consists of two characters sharing stories with each other, “and there’s something beautiful in that, that’s where the love is. That’s what I believe, that fiction is something that has love in it, and the writing of fiction that I do, that comes out of that very basic, human, emotional need to share stories with others. And there’s real power in it.”

Ridgway won the Prix Femina Étranger in 2001 for the French translation of his novel, The Long Falling. He won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature the same year and the O Henry Award in 2012 for his short story, Rothko Eggs. A Shock was shortlisted last year for the Goldsmiths Prize and thee Irish Novel of the Year Award.

Fiction judge Dr Benjamin Bateman, of the University of Edinburgh, called A Shock “a sensitive, creative, and highly humane examination of lives that, in so much other fiction, would be relegated to the status of minor characters”.

The author of several acclaimed books and works of poetry, Chaudhuri has also released recordings of his singing North Indian classical music. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2009 and has been a professor of creative writing at Ashoka University since 2020. His latest book, Sojourn, a novel, is reviewed in The Irish Times this Saturday.

Biography judge Dr Simon Cooke, of the University of Edinburgh, called Finding the Raga “a work of great depth, subtlety, and resonance, which unobtrusively changed the way we thought about music, place, and creativity. Folding the ethos of the raga into its own form, it is a beautifully voiced, quietly subversive masterpiece in the art of listening to the world”.

Martin Doyle

Martin Doyle

Martin Doyle is Books Editor of The Irish Times