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Britain's Most Dreaded Literary Prize...

Nancy Huston has won the 20th annual Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award, for Infrared (Atlantic Books). The prize was presented to a representative of her publishers by Samantha Bond, whose many roles have included a memorably saucy turn as Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond films and, more recently, Lady Rosamund Painswick in Downton Abbey.

Infrared tells the story of a frustrating family holiday endured by Rena Greenblatt, a photographer who specialises in taking infrared snaps of her lovers during sex. Nancy Huston lives in Paris and was unable to accept the prize in person. Her publisher accepted it on her behalf. Huston said in a statement: 'I hope this prize will incite thousands of British women to take close-up photos of their lovers' bodies in all states of array and disarray.'

Sentences from the novel such as 'Kamal and I are totally immersed in flesh, that archaic kingdom that brings forth tears and terrors, nightmares, babies and bedazzlements' caught the judges' attention. One long passage in particular stood out:

He runs his tongue and lips over my breasts, the back of my neck, my toes, my stomach, the countless treasures between my legs, oh the sheer ecstasy of lips and tongues on genitals, either simultaneously or in alternation, never will I tire of that silvery fluidity, my sex swimming in joy like a fish in water, my self freed of both self and other, the quivering sensation, the carnal pink palpitation that detaches you from all colour and all flesh, making you see only stars, constellations, milky ways, propelling you bodiless and soulless into undulating space where the undulating skies make your non-body undulate...

Infrared is Huston's 14th work of fiction. She has won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, the Prix Femina and been shortlisted for the Orange Prize. Originally from Canada, she writes in French, then translates her books into English herself. She is only the third woman to win the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

The awards were announced at a lavish ceremony on Tuesday 4 December 2012, at the In & Out (Naval & Military) Club in St James's Square, where the 400 guests raised a toast to the winner.

Huston edged out strong competition from Tom Wolfe's Back to Blood ('Now his big generative jockey was inside her pelvic saddle, riding, riding, riding, and she was eagerly swallowing it swallowing it swallowing it with the saddle's own lips and maw'), Ben Masters's Noughties ('She took it and forced it inside the cup of her bra, lending me her full cushiony swell. With my other hand I traced the Braille of her viscera'), and Nicola Barker's The Yips ('She smells of almonds, like a plump Bakewell pudding; and he is the spoon, the whipped cream, the helpless dollop of warm custard. She steams').

The shortlist also included:

  • The Quiddity of Will Self by Sam Mills
  • The Divine Comedy by Craig Raine
  • Rare Earth by Paul Mason
  • The Adventuress by Nicholas Coleridge

Last year the prize was won by David Guterson for Ed King published by Bloomsbury. Other past winners include Jonathan Littell (2009), Rachel Johnson (2008) and Norman Mailer (2007). John Updike was awarded a Bad Sex Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

For a confessional account on Bad Sex judging by Literary Review's senior editor Jonathan Beckman, read his piece in the Financial Times. You will also be able to read a more detailed report on this year's shortlist in Literary Review's December / January double issue. For snippets from the shortlist, follow Literary Review's twitter account, @lit_review. The tweets are tagged as #LRBadSex2012.

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