Sonali Deraniyagala has won the PEN/Ackerley Prize 2014 for Wave, her memoir recounting the loss of her parents, her husband and two young sons in the Tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka in December 2004.
‘The pleasure of receiving this wonderful prize makes me see that there is a beauty in struggle and a resting place in the eyes of others’, said Deraniyagala who was awarded the prize last night (July 17). ‘I have found myself a writer, another identity in the ongoing bewildering journey of my life’, she said.
Chair of judges Peter Parker said: ‘To write any kind of book about the loss of parents, a husband and two small sons in a natural disaster is a hazardous undertaking, but in Wave Sonali Deraniyagala has produced one that goes far beyond its dreadful starting point. Subtitled “A Memoir of Life after the Tsunami”, it is as much reclamation and celebration of the lives that were lost as it is an account of the processes of shock, grief and mourning. In a strong and varied shortlist, Wave emerged as the winner of this year’s Prize because it upholds the standards that J R Ackerley himself set: truthful, unsparing, and written with outstanding grace and economy.”
The PEN/Ackerley prize, first awarded in 1982, is dedicated to recognising memoirs and autobiographies. This year’s other shortlisted titles included Stage Blood by Michael Blakemore, Levels of Life by Julian Barnes, Horace and Me by Harry Eyres, and Ammonites and Leaping Fish by Penelope Lively. The prize is awarded in memory of Joe Randolph Ackerley, literary editor of The Listener magazine, who died in 1967. Funded by Ackerley’s posthumous royalties, the prizewinner receives £3000. Previous recipients include Alan Bennett and Germaine Greer.