Neel Mukherjee’s The Lives of Others wins Encore prize

The ‘ambition and depth’ of the Booker-shortlisted novel secures £10,000 award for the best second novel of the year

Neel Mukherjee’s story of a young man who is drawn into into extreme political activism in 1960s Calcutta, The Lives of Others, has won him the £10,000 Encore award for the year’s best second novel.

Already shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, where it missed out to Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and the Costa, Mukherjee’s novel “immensely impressed” judges with its “ambition and depth”, said chair of the panel Alex Clark. It beat second novels by authors including Will Wiles, Deborah Kay Davies and Amanda Coe to win the Encore, an award which was founded by Lucy Astor 25 years ago, and which has been won in the past by major names including Ali Smith, Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín.

Related: 25 years of the ...

Pleasantville review – Attica Locke’s dazzlingly good third novel

The Black Water Rising writer returns with a vivid, detailed tale of a dirty mayoral race and a killer on the loose

It is election night in Houston, Texas, in 1996, and the residents of black neighbourhood Pleasantville are watching the numbers come in, “on the verge... of realising the dream of their lifetime, the ripe fruit of decades of labour and struggle”. Because Axel Hathorne, former chief of police and one of their own, has taken a step closer to becoming the city’s first black mayor next month.

Alicia Nowell has been campaigning, and is waiting for a bus to take her home, when she notices the sound of an engine idling down the deserted, dark street. “She couldn’t tell the make or model of the vehicle, but it was the height and width of a van, or a truck of some sort. Run. Just run. It was a whisper ...

Simon Armitage joins field for Oxford professor of poetry

Bestselling ‘self-schooled’ poet nominated alongside Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and three others for prestigious position

Simon Armitage has thrown his hat into the ring to be the next professor of poetry at Oxford University, a prestigious position that was first established in the early 18th century and whose previous incumbents include Robert Graves to WH Auden.

The bestselling poet will be up against Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka for the five-year role, which is voted for by Oxford graduates and seen as the UK’s second most important poetry position, behind that of poet laureate. Three more candidates are also in the running, with the poet AE Stallings also entering the race late last week alongside the poet, novelist and critic Ian Gregson, professor of creative writing at Bangor University, and the poet, publisher and psychotherapist Seán Haldane.

Related: Wole Soyinka leads candidates for Oxford professor of poetry

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Invented language lessons from George RR Martin and other writers

Dothraki, the tongue devised for A Game of Thrones, is now being learned by fans. But the new invention joins a well-established tradition

When a Dothraki girl first wondered about her chieftain Drogo, remarking to herself “what a handsome man the khal was” in the opening scenes of George RR Martin’s novel A Game of Thrones, the author had no idea his imagined language would stretch to a vocabulary of 4,000 words, studied by legions of ardent fans.

But today, over at the Tongues of Ice and Fire site, dedicated fans of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels are contemplating the various linguistic puzzlers thrown up by Dothraki, the fictional language spoken by a nomadic, warlike race in the bestselling fantasy series. One reflects on forms of the present participle, while another wants to know the Dothraki for “poop” – apparently it’s “graddakh”.

“the night was clere though ...

Archive find shows medieval mystic Margery Kempe’s autobiography ‘doesn’t lie’

Academic says letter written for her son shows that account of pilgrimages and religious visions is better anchored in history than many think

A 15th-century letter found in an archive in Gdansk and believed to have been prepared for the son of Margery Kempe, who dictated the earliest surviving autobiography written in English, may shed fresh light on the medieval mystic’s remarkable account of her visions and pilgrimages 600 years ago.

Only one copy of the manuscript of The Book of Margery Kempe survives today, found in 1934. The extraordinary text tells of the religious visions Kempe experienced after the birth of the first of her 14 children, her failings in business and callings to the spiritual life, and how she persuaded her husband to join her in a vow of chastity before embarking on a series of pilgrimages.

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Post-apocalyse picks: your favourite end-of-the-world reading

Some days, stories about the bleakest possible futures are strangely appealing. I’m in the mood for Raymond Briggs and Stephen King – how about you?

Sometimes when the unexpected happens, you have to turn to fiction. The only thing bringing me even brief consolation just now is picking through some of my favourite fictional apocalypses. Since my discovery of John Wyndham as a child – when Sophie’s six-toed footprint from The Chrysalids first burned itself into my mind – it has been (probably, I don’t really want to have to choose anything at this point) my favourite genre. Here are five that have perked me up just a little – let me know where else I should be looking.

Flood by Stephen Baxter
One of my other top images in fiction: Mount Everest vanishing beneath the waves after seismic activity breaks open underground reservoirs and floods the world. My ...