Tonight, French novelist Didier Decoin and British author John Harvey became the joint winners of the 2019 Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
Judges were unable to choose between the two novels, Decoin’s The Office of Garden and Ponds, translated by Euan Cameron, and Harvey’s Pax.
In a statement, judges said they tried voting ‘…but it didn’t work. We tried again. Ultimately there was no separating the winners… we found ourselves unable to choose between them. We believe the British public will recognise our plight.’
The section of prose that won Decoin the accolade, which he will no doubt consider in conjunction with the Prix Goncourt awarded to him in 1977, is as follows:
‘Rummaging among the folds of Katsuro’s kimono, she uncovered areas of naked flesh that she began to stroke with the tips of her fingers, with her lips, her tongue and with a sweep of her hair, sleek and cool as the feathers of a crow. Drawing her mouth close to the opening of the wide sleeves of the haori [footnote: ‘A sort of jacket’] that he wore over his kimono, she took hold of the fisherman’s fingers, nibbled them and sucked at them, coating them in a saliva so smooth that they became as slippery as if he had stuck them in a pot of honey, to the extent that he was then incapable of picking anything up.‘
While Harvey stuns with this passage:
“I see it,’ he said. ‘You are the female praying mantis, devouring her mate.’ ‘I am. You are. I shall eat every shred of you.’ ‘Mouthful by mouthful.’ ‘Exactly. Ah. But boy, you taste good.’ She licked her lips, and pulled him close, but now he was clasping too. It was a kind of slow wrestling, they were knitting each other into a loose slipping knot. He was upside down over her, loving her bush and lick-kissing like eating her inner thighs. Till at last they loved fully and later lay back. She did not chatter. Their arms stirred in a luxurious desultory twining.‘
Runners up included Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert for her novel City of Girls and Irish writer Mary Costello for The River Capture.
You can read the whole 2019 shortlist right here on Nothing in the Rulebook
The Bad Sex in Fiction Award was set up in 1993 and aims to ‘draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction.’
Last year’s winner was US author James Frey. His 2018 novel Katerina left judges spoilt for choice as it featured sex in a car park, the back of a taxi and Parisian hotel rooms. Frey, however, took the win in his stride, saying, ‘I am deeply honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious award. Kudos to all my distinguished fellow finalists – you have all provided me with many hours of enjoyable reading over the last year.’
This winners of the 2019 awards are yet to make a statement about their shared victory.