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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 Prize

The David Cohen Prize 2021 was awarded on December 13 2021.

Colm Tóibín wins the David Cohen Prize for Literature 2021

We are delighted to announce the winner of the 2021 David Cohen Prize for Literature. The prize was awarded to an Irish writer who has thrilled readers for decades, with a huge and devoted following: Colm Tóibín.

Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in 1955. He started writing at the age of 12, and has drawn admiration from countless readers: his deep pleasure in writing is evident and is fêted by readers and viewers across the world. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages, his output includes ten novels and eleven works of non-fiction, as well as poetry, short story and essay collections, and journalism. His novel, Brooklyn, was adapted for film in 2016. His most recent novel, The Magician, published in September 2021, reaffirmed his position as “one of our greatest living novelists” (The i).

Now it is with pleasure and recognition that the David Cohen Prize for Literature is awarded to him.

Hermione Lee, chair of judges, said: “Chairing the David Cohen Prize-judging for the first time has been an enormous pleasure and exciting privilege for me. Colm Tóibín was our unanimous choice and we’re all proud and delighted to be giving him the prize. I think of him as a Renaissance man who can do almost everything with equal brilliance: he’s a novelist, short story writer, playwright, essayist, travel-writer, critic, teacher, journalist and activist for gay rights. His novels and stories imagine their way into the lives and minds of others with amazing empathy and skill. He’s a deeply perceptive writer who can also be lethally funny and daringly erotic. He’s a truly international figure, and a watchful historian of our times. He’s a beautiful writer of loss and grief, silence and quietness. He writes with the intensity of a poet and the lyric rhythms of a musician. I have never missed a book by him and every book of his I’ve read has been a revelation. He’s one of the essential writers of our times.”

The David Cohen Prize for Literature was awarded on Monday 13 December 2021 at RIBA in London.

The Clarissa Luard Award – worth £10,000 – as selected by the 2021 winner of the David Cohen Prize, was given on the same evening to the poet Padraig Regan.

Further information

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

Previous winners

2019 Edna O'Brien
2017 Tom Stoppard
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