It is the prize no author wants to win.
Award-winning novelist Nancy Huston won Britain’s Bad Sex in Fiction award on Tuesday for her novel Infrared, whose tale of a photographer who takes pictures of her lovers during sex proved too revealing for the judges.
The choice was announced by Downton Abbey actress Samantha Bond during a ceremony at the Naval & Military Club in London.
Judges of the tongue-in-cheek prize — which is run by Literary Review magazine — said they were struck by a description of “flesh, that archaic kingdom that brings forth tears and terrors, nightmares, babies and bedazzlements” and by a long passage that builds to a climax of “undulating space.”
Huston, who lives in Paris, was not on hand to collect her prize.
In a statement read by her publicist, the 59-year-old author said she hoped her victory would “incite thousands of British women to take closeup photos of their lovers’ bodies in all states of array and disarray.”
Canada-born Huston, who writes in both French and English, is the author of more than a dozen novels, including Plainsong and Fault Lines.
She has previously won France’s Prix Goncourt and was a finalist for Britain’s Orange Prize for fiction by women.
She is only the third woman to win the annual Bad Sex prize, founded in 1993 to name and shame authors of “crude, tasteless and ... redundant passages of sexual description in contemporary novels.”
However, some critics have praised the sexual passages in Infrared.
Shirley Whiteside in the Independent on Sunday newspaper said there were “none of the lazy cliches of pornography or the purple prose of modern romantic fiction,” though she conceded the book’s sex scenes were “more perfunctory than erotic.”
Huston beat finalists including previous winner Tom Wolfe — for his passage in Back to Blood describing “his big generative jockey” — and Booker Prize-nominated Nicola Barker, whose novel The Yips compares a woman to “a plump Bakewell pudding.”
Previous recipients of the dubious honor, usually accepted with good grace, include Sebastian Faulks, the late Norman Mailer and the late John Updike, who was awarded a Bad Sex Lifetime Achievement award in 2008.