James Tait Black winners star in podcast

Recorded live at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, this month’s podcast speaks to the winners of Britain’s oldest literary awards, The James Tait Black Prizes.

Zia Haider Rahman won the fiction prize for his expansive debut novel, In The Light of What We Know.

Richard Benson won the biography prize for The Valley, which traces a hundred tumultuous years in the life of his family.

The authors are joined by two of the James Tait Black judges, Professor Randall Stevenson and Dr Jonathan Wild.

Impressive debut

In The Light of What We Know begins in 2008 with the reunion of two old university friends in London.

The ensuing conversations fill in the gaps of their friendship and take in everything from the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, higher maths, the War on Terror, the English class system, cognitive psychology, and how to build a great book shelf.

At its heart, however, is a tortured love story and a startling confession.

On the podcast Rahman reveals where the anger that fuels the novel comes from, why trying to work out what is autobiographical is a modern fixation, and talks about the mathematics of love.

Generous family album

The Valley is the story of Richard Benson’s family, set in the coal dust, the pickets and the parties of a Yorkshire mining community during the last century.

His grandmother Winnie’s 92 years link the contemporary Dearne Valley - full of call centres, retail parks and holidays to Tenerife - with a pre-Great War South Yorkshire marked by mines and dancing the Charleston in village halls.

It is a vivid portrait of a lost community, and an incredibly accessible and generous family album.

Benson talks about how harrowing revelations were shared by his family, how history has recast the miners’ strike, and writing a biography in the face of memory's unreliability.

The James Tait Black Prizes

The University has awarded the prizes annually since 1919. Past winners include such literary luminaries as DH Lawrence, Graeme Greene, Angela Carter and Ian McEwan.

The Big Idea

This podcast is part of the Big Idea series, a monthly show featuring academics discussing contemporary issues and sharing their research and expertise.

As well as being an accessible way for the public to hear about the University’s work, the Big Idea is also a forum for academics to meet colleagues from different areas, share ideas, and gain media training in a studio setting.

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