Sunday, 24 April 2011

Book of the Week and Bibliography - Philip Hensher, King of the Badgers

Philip Hensher is very much part of the literary establishment – a regular contributor to two national broadsheets, an ex-judge of the Booker Prize and also shortlisted for his last novel. Nonetheless, I suspect that he remains largely unknown to most of the reading public, who themselves constitute a small minority of the whole population. Almost all of his back catalogue can be picked up very cheaply (see below). However, he is an ambitious writer who is likely to achieve to greater literary success in the future. Certainly King of the Badgers (just published) has attracted a great deal of critical attention, and should provide a good read. It is a large novel, set in a fictitious Devon town, with a vast cast of characters interacting in a range of ways. Not all of it seems to work, but most does, and I await my copy with interest.

Hensher was born in London in 1965 and was educated at Oxford University. His doctoral thesis, at Cambridge University, was on 18th-century English painting. He is the author of several novels and a collection of short stories and he wrote the libretto for Thomas Adés' opera Powder Her Face, based on the life of the Duchess of Argyll. He is a regular broadcaster and contributes reviews and articles to various newspapers and journals including The Spectator, the Mail on Sunday and The Independent. vHis first novel, Other Lulus (1994), set in Vienna, centres on a young girl's discovery of a family connection with the composer Alban Berg. His six years spent working at the House of Commons in London provided the backdrop to his second novel, Kitchen Venom, published in 1996. The book combines a story of murder and intrigue at the House with a deft account of the eccentric relationships and rituals that have been played out for centuries. It won a Somerset Maugham Award and sparked controversy when it was revealed that the author had been sacked from his job as a parliamentary clerk after giving an interview to the gay magazine Attitude. Pleasured (1998), his third novel, is set in Berlin on the eve of the fall of the Wall. The Bedroom of the Mister's Wife, a collection of short stories, was published in 1999. Many of the stories had previously been broadcast on radio or published in newspapers and magazines including Granta, The Independent and the Erotic Review. The Mulberry Empire (2002), is a love story and an account of conflicting imperial ambitions during the first Anglo-Afghan war. In 2003, Philip Hensher was nominated by Granta magazine as one of 20 'Best of Young British Novelists'. The Northern Clemency (2008) was shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2009 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia Region, Best Book). He lives in South London and is a member of the Council of the Royal Society of Literature.


Other Lulus Hamish Hamilton, 1994. Hardcover in dustwrapper, £10-15.

Kitchen Venom Hamish Hamilton, 1996. Hardcover in dustwrapper, £10.

Pleasured Chatto & Windus, 1998. Hardcover in dustwrapper, £5-10.

The Oxford Book of English Short Stories (includes short story 'Dead Languages' by Philip Hensher) Oxford University Press, 1998

The Bedroom of the Mister's Wife Chatto & Windus, 1999. Paperback original in wraps. Uncommon, but should be available at £10.

The Mulberry Empire Flamingo, 2002. Hardcover in dustwrapper, £5 – 10.

The Fit Fourth Estate, 2004. Hardcover in dustwrapper, £5-10.

Selected Essays Fourth Estate, 2006. I cannot find an available copy at present!

The Northern Clemency Fourth Estate, 2008. Hardcover in dustwrapper, £12-20.

King of the Badgers Fourth Estate, 2011

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