Your basket is empty.

Praiseworthy by Alexis Wright wins James Tait Black Prize for Fiction

Photo: Darren James

Praiseworthy by Alexis Wright has won the prestigious James Tait Black Prize for Fiction, worth £10,000 (A$18,958). One of the United Kingdom’s longest running literary awards (founded in 1919), the prize is presented annually by The University of Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures.

Previous winners of the prize include DH Lawrence, E.M. Forster, Graham Greene, Muriel Spark, Christine Brooke-Rose, Margaret Drabble, Nadine Gordimer, John Berger, JM Coetzee, AS Byatt and Zadie Smith.

The fiction panel found Praiseworthy to be ‘a brilliant and experimental work of fiction that stretches the boundaries of the novel form in new and exciting ways. Engaged with matters of climate and justice, Praiseworthy’s innovativeness is matched only by its timeliness.’

Fiction judge Benjamin Bateman, a senior lecturer in English Literature the University of Edinburgh, called Praiseworthy ‘a kaleidoscopic and brilliantly conceived novel that interweaves matters of climate and Indigenous justice in prose that accomplishes the most difficult of feats – being funny and simultaneously ferociously engaged with some of the most pressing ethical and political questions of our contemporary moment’.

In her response to the award, Alexis Wright commented: ‘I am really pleased that the judges on the fiction panel have acknowledged the innovative nature of Praiseworthy, and appreciated the scope of my intentions with this work. I intended Praiseworthy to be a a big book in more ways than one. I hope its scale and scope is right for the times we live in.’

The book was chosen from a shortlist of four titles, with an academic judge working with a panel of researchers to critically assess the shortlisted works and decide on the winner. The prizes are also the only major British book awards judged by literature scholars and students. 

Said Bateman: ‘Alexis Wright’s Praiseworthy stood out to our student readers for pushing the novel form in new directions and for depicting, with impeccable nuance and humour, the moral complexity of trying to make a life under conditions of governmental dispossession and slow violence.’

The announcement comes a fortnight after Praiseworthy won the 2024 Stella Prize, and in the same week it was longlisted for the 2024 Miles Franklin Literary Award and the 2024 ALS Gold Medal.

The book was published in the United Kingdom last year by And Other Stories, and in the United States this year by New Directions. In Australia, it is available in both paperback and hardcover. It was described by the New York Times as ‘the most ambitious and accomplished Australian novel of this century.’

The collector’s set of Alexis Wright fiction. Order here.
The Australian edition of Praiseworthy (2023)
The UK edition of Praiseworthy (And Other Stories, 2023)