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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

Hermione Lee was appointed Chair of Judges in 2020. She will be joined on the 2021 judging panel by Reeta Chakrabarti, Peter Kemp, Susheila Nasta and Maura Dooley. The David Cohen Prize will next be awarded in November 2021.

The Prize

The David Cohen Prize 2021 will be awarded in November 2021.

Edna O'Brien wins the David Cohen Prize for Literature 2019

Recognised by many as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, Edna O’Brien is a bestselling novelist, memoirist, playwright and short story writer. John Banville called her “simply, one of the finest writers of our time” and over the decades she has drawn admiration from fellow writers across the literary landscape, including J. M. Coetzee, Ann Patchett, John Berger, Philip Roth, Anne Enright, Michael Ondaatje, Richard Ford and Ian McKellen.

Edna O’Brien was born in 1930 in a small village in County Clare in the west of Ireland. Her first novel,The Country Girls, was published in 1960. Since then she has written over twenty works of fiction including A Pagan Place, Saints and SinnersThe Little Red Chairs and Girl. Her non-fiction includes a memoir, Country Girl, and biographies of James Joyce and Lord Byron. She is also the author of several plays including Virginia (1981) and Haunted (2009). An adaptation of The Country Girls was staged at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin in 2019.

She is the recipient of many awards including the Irish PEN Lifetime Achievement Award, the American National Arts Gold Medal, the Frank O’Connor Prize, the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature and a Prix Femina Special.  She has lived in London for many years.

The David Cohen Prize for Literature was awarded on Tuesday 26 November 2019 at RIBA in London.

The Clarissa Luard Award – worth £10,000 – as selected by the 2019 winner of the David Cohen Prize, was given on the same evening to the Irish poet, Clodagh Beresford Dunne.

Further information

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

Previous winners

2017 Tom Stoppard
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