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Novel exploring homosexuality and death of Alan Turing wins Wellcome Book Prize

Will Eaves won the £30,000 prize for his fifth novel, Murmur (Wellcome Book Prize)
Will Eaves won the £30,000 prize for his fifth novel, Murmur (Wellcome Book Prize)

A novel exploring homosexuality and the death of British mathematician Alan Turing has won the Wellcome Book Prize.

Will Eaves has won the £30,000 prize for his fifth novel, Murmur, which has been hailed as a “future classic”.

Turing took his won life  in 1954 after undergoing chemical castration for a then illegal homosexual relationship.

He had played a key part in deciphering the Nazi Enigma Code, shortening the war, and laid the groundwork for future computing.

Eaves’ novel follows a fictional avatar for Turing, and explores the tragic and introspective prelude to the mathematician’s death.

Despite the tragedy of the novel, it has been praised for displaying mankind’s capacity to endure.

The book explores consciousness, sexuality, homophobia, science and love. It opens with the sentence: “Fear of homosexuals is never far from the surface.”

Murmur follows musings on a range of subjects (Wellcome Book Prize)

Elif Shafak, chairwoman of the judging panel said: “Murmur is a hugely impressive book that will grip you in the very first pages, break your heart halfway through, and in the end, strangely, unexpectedly, restore your faith in human beings, and their endless capacity for resilience.

“By the time you finish the book you might fall in love with not only the story and the storytelling, but with the exquisite craft behind it.

“Every sentence, each character… is well-thought, beautifully written and yet there is a quiet modesty all the way through that is impossible not to admire.

“Whether he intended this or not, Will Eaves has given us a future classic and for this, we are grateful to him.”

The Wellcome Book Prize celebrates fiction and non-fiction which relates to health and medicine.

Eaves was announced as the winner at the award ceremony at Wellcome Collection, London, on the tenth anniversary of the prize.

The other titles shortlisted for the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize were Amateur: A reckoning with gender, identity and masculinity by Thomas Page McBee; Heart: A history by Sandeep Jauhar; Mind on Fire: A memoir of madness and recovery by Arnold Thomas Fanning; My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh and The Trauma Cleaner: One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster by Sarah Krasnostein.

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