February 10, 2015

The person missing from the Folio Prize announcement: Lord Gavron


The Folio Prize: now lots of other things, too

One person was missing from yesterday’s Folio Prize announcement, and it wasn’t a snubbed author. Saturday, just before the shortlist announcement, the owner and chairman of the Folio Society passed away.

Lord Gavron was 84 and had been in good health until last weekend, when he suffered a heart attack after a tennis match. He was the chairman of the Folio Society since 1984,  as well as the owner of poetry publisher Carcanet Press, and the former chair of the Guardian Media Group. Andrew Kidd, founder of the Folio Prize, described him as “a man of legendary achievement.”

Michael Schmidt, managing and editorial director of Carcanet Press, said:

Bob Gavron acquired Carcanet in 1983, under no illusion that he had bought a goldmine. It had been running at a loss for 14 years, but winning prizes and already quite well-known. After that he supported, under-wrote and encouraged our development. The issue of survival never arose: he was there for the long haul. Kate Gavron has been our chairman for many years now. There has not once been editorial intervention. The occasional raised eyebrow, perhaps, but on the whole lessons in good husbandry, good design, and cheerful support.

One piece of his legacy, the Folio Prize, was established last year. George Saunders won the inaugural prize for Tenth of December. The winner of this year’s £40,000 prize will be announced on March 23.

The shortlisted titles are:

Outline by Rachel Cusk

10:04 by Ben Lerner

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

Family Life by Akhil Sharma

How to Be Both by Ali Smith

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín

This is good news for two small publishers: Faber published Toews, Sharma, and Cusk; Granta published Lerner, Offill, and Adhiambo Owuor.

Smith has been nominated for more awards with this book than anyone could have imagined. She narrowly missed the Costa Award (though she took the fiction prize along the way), won the Goldsmiths, and was a finalist for the Man Booker. She and Tóibín are already the favorites.

A statement from the Folio Society said that in his work there and beyond, Lord Gavron “shaped an important cultural legacy. His wisdom, humour and leadership will be sorely missed.” Not to mention his staggeringly curly hair, which you can admire in his Telegraph obituary.



Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.