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'Giant of drama' Sir Tom Stoppard awarded literary prize

Sir Tom told the JC that he had never thought that he would win the award, which recognises living writers' lifetime work

    The Jewish playwright, Sir Tom Stoppard has won the prestigious David Cohen Prize for literature.

    The prize, worth £40,000 is awarded every two years to a British or Irish writer in recognition of their lifetime’s achievement.

    Sir Tom told the JC that he had never thought that he would win the award. 

    “I knew Harold Pinter and Julian Barnes had won it, and then two years ago Tony Harrison who I’d known for ages and admired for his classical knowledge as well as his poetry. So it had that cache for me.

    “You don’t think oh yes, I should get that prize, I deserve it - if anything I am slightly embarrassed.”

    Mark Lawson, the chair of the panel of judges, said: “Stoppard’s work is built on foundations of electrifying dialogue, vivid stage-pictures, literary and historical perception, and roles that allow actors unusual verbal and emotional scope.

    “It is another mark of the literary merit of Tom Stoppard that the judges who met his plays mainly on the page were just as enthusiastic as those who had spent numerous evenings with them in the dark. Two decades after Harold Pinter was an early winner of the David Cohen Prize, the award marks its Silver Jubilee by honouring a second giant of 20th century British drama.”

    In a career spanning 50 years, Sir Tom, who celebrated his 80th birthday in July, has written for stage, film, TV and radio.  He was born in Czechoslovakia in 1937 and lived in India and Singapore before coming to Britain at the age of eight.

    Previous winners of the prize include Muriel Spark, Harold Pinter, and Doris Lessing.  It is donated by the John S Cohen Foundation, which was established in 1965 by Jewish philanthropist and former GP David Cohen and his family. The trust supports education, the arts, conservation and the environment.

    Dr Cohen said: “Congratulations to the judges on coming up with another outstanding winner. Is there no end to the great writers this country produces?”

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