Angela Carter’s masterpiece Nights at the Circus has been selected as best of the best by the James Tait Black award.
Britain’s oldest literary prize has spent the last few months deciding which of its previous winners deserved to be crowned as the best, as part of the celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of English literature studies at Edinburgh University.
The impressive roll call of past winners includes writers such as EM Forster, DH Lawrence, Salman Rushdie and Aldous Huxley. Students at Edinburgh University were tasked with narrowing the selection down to a shortlist of six.
Carter’s novel of magical circus charms was up against A Disaffection by James Kelman, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips, The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark and The Heart of the Matter by Graham Green.
First published in 1984, Nights at the Circus was praised for its vitality, lightness, passion and fun by the judging panel, which included novelist Alan Warner and TV presenter Kirsty Wark.
Speaking at the prize giving ceremony in London, Regius Professor Greg Walker, chair of James Tait Black Prizes, said: "Since 1919 the James Tait Black Awards have represented the very best in fiction and biographies, and it was a great honour to be able to revisit and celebrate these wonderful pieces of work."