Boyd Tonkin

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Boyd Tonkin

London, England
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge University
Occupation(s)Writer, journalist and literary critic
AwardsBenson Medal (2020)

Boyd Tonkin Hon. FRSL is an English writer, journalist and literary critic. He was the literary editor of The Independent newspaper from 1996 to 2013. A long-time proponent of foreign-language literature, he is the author of The 100 Best Novels in Translation (2018).[1] He has been involved with leading literary prizes such as the Man Booker International Prize and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. In 2020 Tonkin was the recipient of the Benson Medal from the Royal Society of Literature.[2]


Tonkin was born in North London[3] and studied English and French literature at Trinity College, Cambridge University,[4] as both an entrance scholar and a senior scholar.[5] He worked as a lecturer in literature, before exchanging academia for journalism, initially as a staff writer and features editor on the magazine Community Care.[3] He then worked at the New Statesman as social affairs editor and on the books desk, before going on to The Independent, where he was literary editor from 1996 to 2013 and Senior Writer and Art Critic until 2016.[6][5][7]

In 2001 Tonkin re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize – established to honour author and translator equally – which he co-judged until it was merged with the Man Booker International Prize in 2015.[6] He chaired the judging panel of the Man Booker in 2016, and other prizes for which he has served as a judge include the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature,[8] the Wasafiri New Writing Prize,[9] the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the David Cohen Prize (2007) and the Prix Cévennes.[10][5]

In addition to his work for The Independent, Tonkin has written for The Observer, Financial Times, The Guardian, The Economist, The Spectator, New Scientist and Newsweek, among other publications, is a contributor to arts and current-affairs programmes on BBC radio, and has been a commentator on literary issues internationally, as well as an invited participant and speaker at festivals and educational institutions worldwide.[5]

He is the author of the book The 100 Best Novels in Translation (Galileo, 2018), a "cross-border guide to fiction",[11][12] about which Ian McEwan said: "This is a brilliant and extremely useful guide, approachable on every level. Boyd Tonkin opens up infinite worlds of the imagination."[13]

In November 2020, Tonkin was awarded the Benson Medal[14] and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.[15]


  1. ^ "Boyd Tonkin – Boundless". Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Boyd Tonkin Awarded Newly-designed Benson Medal". The Royal Society of Literature. 30 November 2020. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Interview | Boyd Tonkin | Author of the Week", BookBlast, 6 August 2018.
  4. ^ "Trinity Literary Festival", Trinity College, Cambridge.
  5. ^ a b c d "Boyd Tonkin", Tlaxcala.
  6. ^ a b "Boyd Tonkin", Boundless.
  7. ^ Boyd Tonkin page at The Independent.
  8. ^ Boyd Tonkin, "NGC Bocas Lit Fest is in keeping with Port of Spain's pedigree as a Caribbean writer's heaven", The Independent, 26 April 2014.
  9. ^ "New Writing Prize 2017", Wasafiri.
  10. ^ Boyd Tonkin, "European novels - Seeking harmony on the hillsides", The Independent, 18 June 2010.
  11. ^ John Taylor, "Say, have you read? A cross-border guide to fiction", TLS, 3 October 2018.
  12. ^ Caroline Moore, "100 Best Novels in Translation is a surprisingly sumptuous read", The Spectator, 7 July 2018.
  13. ^ "The 100 Best Novels in Translation". Galileo Publishing. Retrieved 16 July 2022.
  14. ^ "Benson Medallist 2020: Boyd Tonkin". The Royal Society of Literature. 30 November 2020. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  15. ^ "Press Release: Royal Society of Literature Celebrates 200th Birthday with 60 Appointments and Five-year Festival" (PDF). The Royal Society of Literature. 30 November 2020. Retrieved 1 December 2020.