Annal: 2005 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 2005.

Book:Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream

Sue Prideaux

Although almost everyone recognizes Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream, hardly anyone knows much about the man. What kind of person could have created this universal image, one that so vividly expressed all the uncertainties of the twentieth century? What kind of experiences did he have? In this book, the first comprehensive biography of Edvard Munch in English, Sue Prideaux brings the artist fully to life. Combining a scholar’s precision with a novelist’s insight, she explores the events of his turbulent life and unerringly places his experiences in their intellectual, emotional, and spiritual contexts.

With unlimited access to tens of thousands of Munch’s papers, including his letters and diaries, Prideaux offers a portrait of the artist that is both intimate and moving. Munch sought to paint what he experienced rather than what he saw, and as his life often veered out of control, his experiences were painful. Yet he painted throughout his long life, creating strange and dramatic works in which hysteria and violence lie barely concealed beneath the surface. An extraordinary genius, Munch connects with an audience that reaches around the world and across more than a century.

Book:Haw-Haw

Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce

Nigel Farndale

William and Margaret Joyce—Lord and Lady Haw-Haw—became one of the most mythologized, feared, and ridiculed partnerships of the Second World War. His “Germany Calling” broadcasts delivered in an upper-class drawl, and her more feminine pro-Nazi wireless talks, were part of the very fabric of the Home Front. Yet when they were captured in May 1945, only he was charged with high treason.

Authorized by William Joyces daughter and based on new interviews and previously unpublished archives, Haw-Haw is the meticulously researched and vividly written biography that traces William and Margarets relationship from the rise of the fascist movement in the East End of London through to war-torn Berlin; intrigue, hubris, alcoholism, infidelity following them along the way.

Book:The Pursuit of Victory

The Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson

Roger Knight

A dazzling biography that is destined to be the definitive account of Horatio Nelson’s life for generations

How did Horatio Nelson achieve such extraordinary success? In this authoritative biography, the eminent scholar Roger Knight places him firmly in the context of the Royal Navy of the time. Nelson was passionate and relentless from the outset of his career; his charisma and his coolness in battle are legendary. But his success depended also on the strength of intelligence available to him, the quality of the ships he commanded, the potency of his guns, and the skill of his seamen.

Based on a vast array of new sources, this biography demolishes many of the myths that have for two centuries surrounded Nelson. Knight demonstrates that this great Romantic hero was in his time a shrewd political operator and often a difficult subordinate. He was occasionally na•ve, often impatient, and only happy when completely in command.

Readers will emerge from this biography with a greatly enriched understanding of this singular man-one who was brilliant, severely flawed, and never to be crossed.

Book:Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon: A Life

Max Egremont

Siegfried Sassoon was born in 1886 in Kent, and began writing verses as a boy. While a brave young officer, he confronted the terrible realities of the First World War on the battlefield, in verse, and, finally, by announcing his opposition to the war in 1917, showing that physical courage could exist alongside humanity and sensibility.

In 1918, Sassoon found himself one of the most famous young writers of the time, a mentor to Wilfred Owen, and admired by Winston Churchill and T.E. Lawrence. He joined the Labour Party, became literary editor of the socialist Daily Herald, and began close friendships with Thomas Hardy and E.M. Forster, while trying to adapt his poetry to peacetime. Then Sassoon fell in love with the artistocratic aesthete Stephen Tennant, who led him into his group of Bright Young Things who inspired the early novels of Evelyn Waugh. At the demise of his passionate and fraught relationship with Tennant, Sassoon suddenly married the beautiful…[more]

Book:Stuart

Stuart: A Life Backwards

Alexander Masters

Stuart, A Life Backwards, is the story of a remarkable friendship between a reclusive writer and illustrator (a middle class scum ponce, if you want to be honest about it, Alexander) and a chaotic, knife-wielding beggar whom he gets to know during a campaign to release two charity workers from prison. Interwoven into this is Stuart’s confession: the story of his life, told backwards.

With humour, compassion (and exasperation) Masters slowly works back through post-office heists, prison riots and the exact day Stuart discovered violence, to unfold the reasons why he changed from a happy-go-lucky little boy into a polydrug-addicted-alcoholic Jekyll and Hyde personality, with a fondness for what he called “little strips of silver” (knives to you and me). Funny, despairing, brilliantly written and full of surprises: this is the most original and moving biography of recent years.

Book:Voltaire Almighty

Voltaire Almighty: A Life in Pursuit of Freedom

Roger Pearson

With its tales of illegitimacy, prison, stardom, exile, love affairs, and tireless battles against his critics, priests and king, Roger Pearson’s Voltaire Almighty brings the father of Enlightenment to vivid life.

Voltaire Almighty provides a lively look at the life and thought of one of the major forces behind European Enlightenment. A rebel from start to finish (1694-1778), Voltaire was an ailing and unwanted bastard child who refused to die; and when he did consent to expire some eighty-four years later, he secured a Christian burial despite a bishop’s ban.

During much of his life Voltaire was the toast of society for his plays and verse, but his barbed wit and commitment to human reason got him into trouble. Jailed twice and eventually banished by the king, he was an outspoken critic of religious intolerance and persecution. His personal life was as colorful as his intellectual life. Of independent means and mind, Voltaire never…[more]

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