Deeply disappointing news: Orange, the mobile services company, has pulled its sponsorship for the Orange Prize, which is the prestigious award that has elevated and supported excellent literary fiction for seventeen years. With an explicit intention of elevating fiction written by women -- which, as the VIDA numbers persistently point out, is still quite necessary -- the Orange Prize has brought worldwide attention to the extraordinary fiction of Zadie Smith, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (that's her, pictured above), Marilynne Robinson, Barbara Kingsolver, Rose Tremain, Lionel Shriver, Téa Obreht, Carol Shields, Anne Michaels (for Fugitive Pieces, which is so, so good), and many others.
From the report in The Guardian:
The prize, which was set up to "celebrate excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing from around the world", is given annually to the best book by a woman written in English. Winners ... are presented with a cheque for £30,000 and a bronze figurine known as "the Bessie".
The prize money itself is supplied through the endowment of a private donor, but the remainder of the award's expenses have been met by Orange's sponsorship since the prize was launched in January 1996. After this year's award is presented on 30 May, Orange ... will withdraw its support of the prize in order to focus on film industry sponsorship.
Then there's some blah-blah-blah statement from Orange about how they're pleased with the impact of their support over the years, and how literary fiction by women is worthy of support (albeit not by them anymore), etc.
Kate Mosse, the author and co-founder of the award, tells The Guardian that the Orange Prize organization is actively looking for a new sponsor that will carry the award into its next seventeen years. She adds:
"It's very rare for a sponsorship like this to come onto the market - the investment generates something in the region of £17.5m a year in advertising, and the cultural capital of the women's prise for fiction is practically second to none. The potential is very exciting."
The shortlist for this years prize are:
- Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
- The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
- Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
- Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick
- State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
The winner will be crowned next week in what is expected to be the most downbeat awards ceremony ever.