Clive James up for Costa Book Award

Clive James Clive James spent years translating Dante's The Divine Comedy

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Writer and broadcaster Clive James is nominated in this year's Costa Book Awards for his translation of Dante's epic poem The Divine Comedy.

James, who has struggled with ill health in recent years, is nominated in the poetry category along with the award-winning poet Michael Symmons Roberts.

Winners in the novel, first novel, biography, poetry and children's book categories will be announced on 6 January 2014.

An overall winner - the 2013 Costa Book of the Year - is announced on 28 January.

Australian James is best known for his hit show Clive James On Television and has had a long career as a literary critic and journalist.

The Costa judges described his 14,233-line translation of Dante, which took him several years, as "a towering achievement that will stand the test of time".

The 14th Century poem, which describes Dante's travels through hell, purgatory and heaven, is widely considered to be the one of the greatest works of world literature.

The all-women shortlist for best novel includes a posthumous nomination for Bernardine Bishop, author of Unexpected Lessons in Love.

The other nominees are Kate Atkinson for Life After Life, Maggie O'Farrell for Instructions for a Heatwave, and Evie Wyld for All the Birds, Singing.

Bishop, who died in July aged 73, was the youngest witness in the Lady Chatterley's Lover obscenity trial in 1960. She wrote two early novels and then taught and practised as a psychotherapist before cancer forced her retirement in 2010.

She returned to fiction writing, and completed Unexpected Lessons in Love and two further novels before her death. The last two novels, Hidden Knowledge and The Street, will be published posthumously.

Clockwise from top left: Kate Atkinson (photo: Euan Myles), Evie Wyld, Bernardine Bishop (photo: Sylvan Mason) and Maggie O'Farrell (photo: Ben Gold) Best novelists: (clockwise from top left) Kate Atkinson, Evie Wyld, Bernardine Bishop and Maggie O'Farrell

O'Farrell won the novel prize in 2010 with The Hand That First Held Mine; while Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum won the 1995 first novel prize and went on to be named the book of the year, beating Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh.

Another former victor is poet Michael Symmons Roberts, whose Corpus won the poetry category in 2004. His nominated new collection Drysalter - which consists of 150 poems that are all 15 lines long - won this year's £10,000 Forward Prize for Poetry.

The biography category sees Lucy Hughes-Hallett, who recently won the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize for The Pike, nominated alongside Gavin Francis, Thomas Harding and Olivia Laing.

The full shortlists for 2013 in the five categories are:

Novel Award

  • Kate Atkinson for Life After Life (Doubleday)
  • Bernardine Bishop for Unexpected Lessons in Love (John Murray)
  • Maggie O'Farrell for Instructions for a Heatwave (Tinder Press)
  • Evie Wyld for All the Birds, Singing (Jonathan Cape)

First Novel Award

  • Sam Byers for Idiopathy (Fourth Estate)
  • Kate Clanchy for Meeting the English (Picador)
  • Nathan Filer for The Shock of the Fall (HarperCollinsPublishers)
  • Sathnam Sanghera for Marriage Material (William Heinemann)

Biography Award

  • Gavin Francis for Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins (Chatto & Windus)
  • Thomas Harding for Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz (William Heinemann)
  • Lucy Hughes-Hallett for The Pike: Gabriele D'Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War (Fourth Estate)
  • Olivia Laing for The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink (Canongate)

Poetry Award

  • Clive James for Dante, The Divine Comedy (Picador)
  • Helen Mort for Division Street (Chatto & Windus)
  • Robin Robertson for Hill of Doors (Picador)
  • Michael Symmons Roberts for Drysalter (Jonathan Cape)

Children's Book Award

  • Ross Montgomery for Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door (Faber and Faber)
  • Sarah Naughton for The Hanged Man Rises (Simon and Schuster)
  • Chris Riddell for Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse (Macmillan Children's Books)
  • Elizabeth Wein for Rose Under Fire (Electric Monkey)

Formerly known as the Whitbread Prize, this year's Costa Book Awards awards had a record 617 entries. To be eligible, authors must have been resident in the UK for the previous three years.

Winners in the five categories each receive £5,000. The winner of the Costa Book of the Year receives £30,000.

Last year's top prize went to Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. It was the first book to be named as Costa Book of the Year and win the Man Booker Prize in the same year.

Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won 11 times by a novel, four times by a first novel, five times by a biography, seven times by a collection of poetry and once by a children's book.

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