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The David Cohen Prize for Literature

The David Cohen Prize for Literature is worth £40,000 and recognises a living writer from the UK or the Republic of Ireland for a lifetime’s achievement in literature. The prize was established in 1992 and is one of the UK’s most distinguished literary honours.

At a glance

John S Cohen Foundation

The David Cohen Prize for Literature is funded by the John S Cohen Foundation, which was established by David Cohen and his family in 1965 to support education, the arts, conservation and the environment.

The judges

The judges of the David Cohen Prize 2017 are Kate Bassett, Gillian Clarke, Professor Simon J. James, Alan Johnson, Denise Mina and Anita Sethi. Mark Lawson acted as chair of the judges for his fourth term.

Clarissa Luard Award

In 2017, the Clarissa Luard Award was given to an independent publisher to support new writing.

Tom Stoppard wins the David Cohen Prize for Literature 2017

Tom Stoppard was born Tomás Straüssler on 3 July 1937 in Zlín, Czechoslovakia. At the age of 29, Stoppard was the youngest dramatist ever to have a play performed at the National Theatre (based at that time at the Old Vic), with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a play that was revived at the NT on its 50th anniversary earlier this year. This launched a career that would see him rise to his position as one of the most acclaimed playwrights of the modern age, with works such as Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Professional Foul and The Real Thing.

Stoppard has written prolifically for TV, radio, film and stage, and across countless topics: from metaphysics and quantum mechanics to moral philosophy and moon landings, the pain of adultery and the excitement of love, linguistics and philosophy. He has also written passionately across human rights, censorship and political freedom. It is this extraordinary range of writing and quality of work throughout his literary career that made him a overwhelming choice for the judges.

As chair of the judges Mark Lawson commented, “Stoppard’s work is built on foundations of electrifying dialogue, vivid stage-pictures, literary and historical perception, and roles that allow actors unusual verbal and emotional scope. It is another mark of the literary merit of Tom Stoppard that the judges who met his plays mainly on the page were just as enthusiastic as those who had spent numerous evenings with them in the dark. Two decades after Harold Pinter was an early winner of the David Cohen Prize, the award marks its Silver Jubilee by honouring a second giant of 20th century British drama.”

Further information

For any more information about the prize, see the David Cohen Prize for Literature website.

Previous winners

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