Italian author Erri De Luca has been crowned the winner of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award 2016 for his novel The Day Before Happiness.

De Luca fended off stiff competition from creative writing teacher Ethan Canin's A Doubter's Almanac ("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") and The Butcher's Hook, by former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis ("I am pinned like wet washing with his peg. Till now, I thought the sweetest sound I could ever hear was cows chewing grass. But this is better") among others to become the 24th winner of the Literary Review prize.

The Bad Sex in Fiction Award judges were won over by a scene in De Luca's novel in which the Neapolitan protagonist and a mysterious woman he had watched from afar become intimate. The excerpt included the description of the male character's genitalia as being like "a plank stuck to her stomach".

Another piece of the narrative detailed how the couple's "sexes were ready, poised in expectation, barely touching each other: ballet dancers hovering en pointe".


De Luca's trophy cabinet is already well-filled. In 2013, he won the European Prize for Literature and was hailed as "the writer of the decade" by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The novelist was not in attendance, however, to retrieve his Bad Sex in Fiction Award at the ceremony, held at the In & Out (Naval and Military) Club in London. A representative from the book's publisher Allen Lane was on hand to pick up the prize in his absence.

The aim of the prize, awarded since 1993, is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction. Singer-songwriter Morrissey won the award last year for his fictional debut List of The Lost.

Read the winning extract below (warning: explicit content may offend)

"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."

"She pushed on my hips, an order that thrust me in. I entered her. 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. I went in with her thrusts and stayed still. While I got used to the quiet and the pulsing of my blood in my ears and nose, she pushed me out a little, then in again. She did it again and again, holding me with force and moving me to the rhythm of the surf. She wiggled her breasts beneath my hands and intensified the pushing. I went in up to my groin and came out almost entirely. My body was her gearstick."