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Ben Okri wins Bad Sex in Fiction award with 'rocket went off' metaphor

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The Age Of Magic

Author Ben Okri can add a new entry to his long list of esteemed accomplishments: the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

The Guardian reports that Okri’s 10th novel, The Age of Magic, won the 22nd Annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award from The Literary Review, for what they describe as “the most egregious passage of sexual description in a work of fiction.” The Age of Magic follows a team of filmmakers shooting a documentary about the idea of Arcadia, who wind up in a hotel by a lake in the shadow of a looming mountain and are troubled by an ominous figure called Malasso.

Here is the winning (or losing?) scene in full, involving Lao, the documentary’s presenter, and his girlfriend, Mistletoe:

When his hand brushed her nipple it tripped a switch and she came alight. He touched her belly and his hand seemed to burn through her. He lavished on her body indirect touches and bitter-sweet sensations flooded her brain.

She became aware of places in her that could only have been concealed there by a god with a sense of humour. Adrift on warm currents, no longer of this world, she became aware of him gliding into her. He loved her with gentleness and strength, stroking her neck, praising her face with his hands, till she was broken up and began a low rhythmic wail. She was a little overwhelmed with being the adored focus of such power, as he rose and fell. She felt certain now that there was a heaven and that it was here, in her body. The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her. Somewhere in the night a stray rocket went off.

Okri previously won the Booker Prize in 1991 for The Famished Road and has also garnered the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, and the Guardian Fiction Prize in his career. Okri’s passage beat out several prestigious authors and nominees, including this year’s Booker Prize winner, Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen.

“This completes every start-up publisher’s dream hat-trick: Head of Zeus have now won a Political Book award, the Metadata Gold Standard award, and the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award all in a single year,” said Laura Palmer, editorial director of the book’s publisher, Head of Zeus, who accepted the award on Okri’s behalf.

According to the Guardian, Okri released a short statement regarding his win: “A writer writes what they write and that’s all there is to it.”