Naomi Alderman, Baileys Prize won by Rolex protégée

Baileys Prize won by Rolex protégée

July 2017 - Naomi Alderman, 2012 - 2013 Literature Protégée

Rolex protégée Naomi Alderman has experienced a surge of interest in her work following the announcement that her fourth novel, The Power, has won the world’s leading prize for English-language fiction by women.

"The Power is dedicated to Margaret Atwood, Alderman’s mentor in the Rolex Arts Initiative in 2012-2013 and to Atwood's partner Graeme Gibson. Widely described as a feminist science fiction novel, the story is set in a world in which women can electrocute people at will, even killing them.”

Alderman, who has already won other major prizes for her writing, described the reaction to news that she had won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction as “extraordinary − I reckon I did 22 interviews in 24 hours after the prize was announced, and the number of offers of work and interest in me has shot up in a very exciting and amazing way. So, I hope it gets the book into lots more hands because I hope it might start some useful conversations. And I’m anticipating having to be even more selective about the projects I take on now! Which is a nice feeling and a slightly ‘gulp’ one.”

She will receive £30,000 with the prize, whose past winners include some of the greatest names writing fiction today − Zadie Smith, Ali Smith, Lionel Shriver and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The first winner of the prize, formerly known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, was novelist and poet Helen Dunmore, who died recently.

Asked if prizes restricted to women writers were still necessary, she replied: “There’s good research that women writers are still reviewed less than men, are still more likely to be classified as ‘chick lit’ and their work is less likely to be thought of as important, serious or essential than men’s work. While those imbalances still exist, the Baileys is an important way to highlight the work of women writers and to direct people to books they might otherwise have missed − and the shortlist I was part of is excellent, I can highly recommend the books on it!”

The Guardian newspaper in London put a picture of Alderman on its lower front page to announce her selection for the prize. On the inside pages, the newspaper reported that The Power had been compared to Atwood’s celebrated novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.

Asked for a comment about The Power, Margaret Atwood told the Guardian, partly in jest: “I’m declaring an interest: Naomi Alderman was my Rolex mentor programme mentee, which in our case meant we laughed a lot. And I also supplied some words about The Power, via Twitter. That said, bravo for this win. The Power is a smart, agile challenging satire in the vein of Swift’s A Modest Proposal. It makes us rethink a number of our assumptions about gender and human nature, and about how much more wonderful the world would be if it were ruled by women…”

In the same vein, the Irish Times drew a comparison with Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and added: “Told with panache and imagination, [The Power] is unapologetically commercial and is already a best-seller, probably well en route to becoming the best-selling Baileys winner to date. The prose is efficient, with a clear-eyed ferocity kept in check. Alderman does not dwell on sentence-to-sentence literary effect – she has a good ear for dialogue, which is particularly strong in the sequences featuring Roxy, the daughter of a London criminal.”

Harper’s Bazaar posted a short but enthusiastic article about Alderman on its website, which ended with some very encouraging words: “Here’s hoping Alderman continues to write explosive books that shock, delight and provoke debate, long after the story is told.”

Rebecca Irvin, Head of Philanthropy at Rolex, congratulated Naomi Alderman on behalf of the company. “This prize is major recognition for Naomi’s great talent and devotion to her art. We at Rolex hope that the creative and fruitful relationship she and her mentor Margaret Atwood established will remain an inspiration for her as she continues to write thought-provoking works.”

The Power is being adapted for television, with Alderman writing the script. The big-screen adaptation of her acclaimed debut novel Disobedience, starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams, is currently in post-production.