Hari Kunzru, 34, presently in India to attend a family wedding, has caused sensation in the literary circles by refusing to accept the £5000 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, Britain's most prestigious and coveted annual literary award for young writers.
The best-selling author of The Impressionist
, Kunzru has turned down the prize, earlier won by Sir VS Naipaul, David Hare and Andrew Motion, because he disagrees with the political stance of the Mail on Sunday, the official sponsor of the award. He believes its stance is racist.
Sources said that he was upset at the "poisonous" stance of the editorial in the paper on the issue of asylum seekers. He said it was an honour to have won the award, but he would not take money from a newspaper that campaigned against the asylum seekers.
"As the child of an immigrant (he was born here in 1969), I am only too aware of the poisonous effect of the Mail's editorial line. The atmosphere of prejudice it fosters translate into violence and I have no wish to profit from it."
The author named among the first 20 most brilliant young writers in Britain, did not attend the award-giving ceremony at the Reform Club. In his place his agent Jonny Geller, read out a dramatic message from Kunzru.
"The Mail on Sunday has consistently pursued an editorial policy of vilifying and demonising refugees and asylum seekers, and throughout their political and social coverage there is a pervasive atmosphere of hostility towards Black and Asian people. As the child of an immigrant, I am only too aware of the poisonous effect of the Mail's editorial line."
The editor and others from the Mail on Sunday were reportedly surprised and shocked. Its editor Peter Wright reportedly said he would be interested to hear from Kunzru which article in the paper he found offensive.
The prize would now be donated to the Refugee Council as requested by the author. The MoS also wishes him to write an article outlining the kind of policy he would like the Government to adopt on the issue of refugees and asylum.
The son of an orthopaedic surgeon, Kunzru, has earned a lot of respect in the literary world with his book The Impressionist. The story of Pran Nath's odyssey from the streets of Agra, to Bombay via red light areas and finally to the green and cool climes of England was hailed as audacious, sweeping, empire-savaging by the New York Times.