On Monday, the British literary magazine Literary Review awarded author Jonathan Littell their annual Bad Sex in Fiction award. The Franco-American bestselling author won the award for his recent book "The Kindly Ones", which won the prestigious French Goncourt Prize in 2006 and is narrated by a fictional Nazi officer, according to the AP. Littell beat out Philip Roth, among other notable authors, for the award.
Though the judges acknowledge that the 900-page tome is "in part, a work of genius," as The Guardian reports, they found the offending passage to be representative of the "crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel" that the Literary Review is trying to discourage through this award.
The passage that won it for Littell was full of mythological imagery and included the image of "a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg." The Telegraph quotes Jonathan Beckman of the Literary Review on their reasoning: "It is trying to squeeze a bit too much, if that's the right word, out of a sexual encounter. That's what won it for us."
Though the award is intentioned in good fun, and was accepted by the author, a Telegraph blog by Oliver Marre condemns the award as being "all about schoolboy sniggering." The award, he says, is really about an embarrassment about sex and the need to laugh at it, rather than the quality of the writing.
You can read the full winning passage, as well as passages from runners up, including Philip Roth and John Banville, at the Literary Review's website.