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Erri De Luca Wins Bad Sex In Fiction Award For Toe-Curling Description
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Erri De Luca Wins Bad Sex In Fiction Award For Toe-Curling Description

Picture of Simon Leser
UK Literary Editor
Updated: 30 November 2016
Erri De Luca was just announced as the 24th annual winner of the Literary Review‘s Bad Sex in Fiction Award, a prize handed out since 1993 to the writer responsible for the worst carnal display of affection published in the previous 12 months.
Erri De Luca | ©Niccolò Caranti/Wikimedia Commons
Erri De Luca | ©Niccolò Caranti/Wikimedia Commons

“My prick was a plank stuck to her stomach. With a swerve of her hips, she turned me over and I was on top of her. She opened her legs, pulled up her dress and, holding my hips over her, pushed my prick against her opening. I was her plaything, which she moved around. Our sexes were ready, poised in expectation, barely touching each other: ballet dancers hovering en pointe.”

Or so wrote Erri De Luca in The Day Before Happiness, words which are said to have swung the jurors in his favor. The Italian prize-winning novelist, notably described by the Corriere della Serra as “the writer of the decade,” was awarded the 2016 Bad Sex in Fiction Award at a ceremony held this evening at the In & Out (Naval and Military) Club in London. With the author unable to attend and unavailable to comment, a representative from Allen Lane accepted it on his behalf.

De Luca’s latest novel caught the attention of the prize for deficiencies in the act, so to speak, which elsewhere included such passages as: “Not only my prick, but the whole of me entered her, into her guts, into her darkness, eyes wide open, seeing nothing. My whole body had gone inside her.”

And while the prose above managed to tickle the judges’ fancy, it must be acknowledged that it is remarkably unsexy, especially for a passage describing sex. Kudos must nonetheless be given for the “en pointe” imagery, which this editor did actually find most appropriate.

In any case, because we like reading this kind of writing as much as you do, we’ve included the year’s other five nominees below. Enjoy.

The cover images for the winner, along with two other nominees. | Courtesy of Other Press, Random House, and Picador
The cover images for the winner, along with two other nominees. | Courtesy of Other Press, Random House, and Picador

From A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin

“The act itself was fervent. Like a brisk tennis game or a summer track meet, something performed in daylight between competitors. The cheap mattress bounced. She liked to do it more than once, and he was usually able to comply. Bourbon was his gasoline. Between sessions, he poured it at the counter while she lay panting on the sheets. Sweat burnished her body. The lean neck. The surprisingly full breasts. He would down another glass and return.”

From The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler

“He closed his eyes and heard himself make a gurgling sound. And as his trousers slipped down his legs all the burdens of his life to date seemed to fall away from him; he tipped back his head and faced up into the darkness beneath the ceiling, and for one blessed moment he felt as if he could understand the things of this world in all their immeasurable beauty. How strange they are, he thought, life and all of these things. Then he felt Anezka slide down before him to the floor, felt her hands grab his naked buttocks and draw him to her. “Come, sonny boy!” he heard her whisper, and with a smile he let go.”

From Men Like Air by Tom Connolly

“The walkway to the terminal was all carpet, no oxygen. Dilly bundled Finn into the first restroom on offer, locked the cubicle door and pulled at his leather belt. “You’re beautiful,” she told him, going down on to her haunches and unzipping him. He watched her passport rise gradually out of the back pocket of her jeans in time with the rhythmic bobbing of her buttocks as she sucked him. He arched over her back and took hold of the passport before it landed on the pimpled floor. Despite the immediate circumstances, human nature obliged him to take a look at her passport photo.”

From The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis

“When his hand goes to my breasts, my feet are envious. I slide my hands down his back, all along his spine, rutted with bone like mud ridges in a dry field, to the audacious swell below. His finger is inside me, his thumb circling, and I spill like grain from a bucket. He is panting, still running his race. I laugh at the incongruous size of him, sticking to his stomach and escaping from the springing hair below.”

From Leave Me by Gayle Forman

“Once they were in that room, Jason had slammed the door and devoured her with his mouth, his hands, which were everywhere. As if he were ravenous.

And she remembered standing in front of him, her dress a puddle on the floor, and how she’d started to shake, her knees knocking together, like she was a virgin, like this was the first time. Because had she allowed herself to hope, this was what she would’ve hoped for. And now here it was. And that was terrifying.

Jason had taken her hand and placed it over his bare chest, to his heart, which was pounding wildly, in tandem with hers. She’d thought he was just excited, turned on.

It had not occurred to her that he might be terrified, too.”

For the sake of comparison, here’s what I consider to be good sexual conduct. It is taken from Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians, published this year:

“I understand what all the fuss is about if I let it I let it. And my body corrupts. Pangs of it going to every part. Don’t do that! Really? No actually, do. Or Or Where did you just put your tongue? His barely raised eyebrows. […] Late restraint ebbing. Him saying Go on. I try not to but, in the work and rise, in the mad of it then, I do. Shame biting my lip down to blood and all the pleasure rushing through.”