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'National treasure' Michael Rosen awarded PEN Pinter prize

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Michael Rosen, who has written more than 200 books for children and adults, and nearly died during the early months of Covid, has won the 2023 PEN Pinter prize for what judges called a “fearless” body of work that provides a “lesson in humanity.” Rosen will receive the prize during a ceremony at the British Library in October. Established in memory of English playwright Harold Pinter, the award honours a writer based in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth who – in the words of Pinter’s 2005 Nobel prize acceptance speech – shows a “fierce intellectual determination” to “define the real truth of our lives and our societies.”

Rosen will share the award with a Writer of Courage, who he will select from a shortlist of international writers that have actively defended freedom of expression, often at risk to their own safety.

“I feel greatly honoured to have been offered the PEN Pinter prize,” said Rosen. “It immediately brings to mind the many people all over the world incarcerated, tortured or executed for being brave enough to write about what they perceive to be injustice. We might say that such punishments serve to prove the injustice that the writers expose, or to show the weakness of the regimes who’ve inflicted these cruelties, but nevertheless, the pain and suffering is all too real and ever-present.”

Rosen’s books include the 1989 bestseller We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and Sad Book, which explores Rosen’s experience of grief after the death of his son. His most recent books of poems, The Advantages of Nearly Dying, chronicles the author’s near-death experience with Covid-19.

Alongside Borthwick on the judging panel were award-winning poet Raymond Antrobus and writer and theatre director Amber Massie-Blomfield. Antrobus said that Rosen is a “passionate linguist, gifted humanist, national treasure and ambassador of gibberish.”

“Rosen’s remarkable and incontestable impact on English language, literature and literacy is singular and worthy of momentous rewards,” he added.

Rosen was the children’s laureate between 2007 and 2009, and he is currently a professor of children’s literature at Goldsmiths, University of London.

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