Nabokov burning

Ben du Preez casts his eye over rich patrons, poets in peril and a masterpiece that may never be rea

Gongs dominated the literary world this week, as the much-touted Glaswegian AL Kennedy won the Costa Prize with her WWII-epic, Day. The chair of judges, Joanna Trollope, described the part-time comedienne as 'an extraordinary stylist' and compared her to James Joyce. But there was also news that the Nestle prize for children's fiction is no more.

With the ongoing grind of Arts Council cuts, it seems like artists will rely even more heavily on the generosity of wealthy benefactors. Take, for example, the £5million facelift Randy Lerner, owner of Aston Villa football club, has graciously donated to the National Portrait Gallery. Villa fans are said to be livid. Lerner's not complaining, though; the ground floor galleries will be named after him in recognition.

Elsewhere, a Burmese poet was arrested for a cryptic message inside a love poem which, when read vertically, the first word of each line formed the sentence: "Power crazy Senior General Than Shwe." Less arcane was the release of Jonathan Yeo's official portrait of a 'mellow, bouncy' Tony Blair as prime minister. For many, however, to burn or not to burn was the question which dominated the week as Dimitri Nabokov, the sole surviving heir of Vladimir Nabokov, hinted he would burn the author's unfinished novel, The Original of Laura, as stipulated in his will. Referring to it as "the most concentrated distillation of [my father's] creativity" has not helped matters.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Karen Bradley as Culture Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

The most politically charged of the culture minister's responsibilities is overseeing the BBC, and to anyone who works for - or simply loves - the national broadcaster, Karen Bradley has one big point in her favour. She is not John Whittingdale. Her predecessor as culture secretary was notorious for his belief that the BBC was a wasteful, over-mighty organisation which needed to be curbed. And he would have had ample opportunity to do this: the BBC's Charter is due for renewal next year, and the licence fee is only fixed until 2017. 

In her previous job at the Home Office, Karen Bradley gained a reputation as a calm, low-key minister. It now seems likely that the charter renewal will be accomplished with fewer frothing editorials about "BBC bias" and more attention to the challenges facing the organisation as viewing patterns fragment and increasing numbers of viewers move online.

Of the rest of the job, the tourism part just got easier: with the pound so weak, it will be easier to attract visitors to Britain from abroad. And as for press regulation, there is no word strong enough to describe how long the grass is into which it has been kicked.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.