RSL Ondaatje Prize

The annual award of £10,000 for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place.

RSL Ondaatje Prize 2020 – The Winner

We are delighted to announce the winner of the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2020 is Roger Robinson with his collection A Portable Paradise. Animated video by Liang-Hsin Huang. Please read the Winner Press Release for further information. This year’s judges are Peter Frankopan (Chair), Pascale Petit and Evie Wyld.

Roger Robinson will be appearing at the following events:

  • 28 May, 6.30pm Hay Festival Digital – in conversation with Peter Frankopan
  • 28 May, 7.30pm, WORD Leicester will be showcasing Roger’s poem ‘On Nurses’ on their Facebook page
  • 12 June, 10pm BBC Radio 3’s The Verb will feature Roger in a programme about writers of the Caribbean diaspora.

If you have any media enquiries, please contact Annette Brook: annette.brook@rsliterature.org.

Watch our specially commissioned animated video announcing the 2020 RSL Ondaatje Prize winner:


RSL Ondaatje Prize 2020 – The Shortlist

  • Jay Bernard Surge (Chatto & Windus)
  • Tishani Doshi Small Days and Nights (Bloomsbury Circus)
  • Robert Macfarlane Underland (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Elif Shafak 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)
  • Jumoke Verissimo A Small Silence (Cassava Republic)

Please read the Shortlist press release for further information.

Watch our specially commissioned animation announcing the 2020 RSL Ondaatje Prize shortlist:


RSL Ondaatje Prize 2020 – The Longlist

Jane ClarkeWhen the Tree Falls(Bloodaxe Books)
Laura CummingOn Chapel Sands(Chatto & Windus)
Lucy EllmannDucks, Newburyport(Galley Beggar Press)
Luan GoldieNightingale Point(HQ Fiction)
Adam HigginbothamMidnight in Chernobyl(Bantam Press)
Kathleen JamieSurfacing(Sort of Books)
Tim Mackintosh-SmithArabs:
A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes, and Empires
(Yale University Press London)
Philip MarsdenThe Summer Isles(Granta Books)
Robert MinhinnickNia(Seren)
Anita MirThe Inside City (Unbound Digital)
Max PorterLanny(Faber & Faber)
Anna ShermanThe Bells of Old Tokyo: Travels in Japanese Time(Picador)

Please read the Longlist press release for more information.


Winner 2019

Aida Edemariam won the 2019 RSL Ondaatje Prize with The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History (4th Estate). 

I’ve always loved this prize, its generous inclusion of all forms of writing, its assertion that place is not incidental, mere background or local colour, but the thing itself. I’m beyond honoured and grateful to have been awarded it for The Wife’s Tale.

Aida Edemariam – winner, RSL Ondaatje Prize 2019

For more information on the winner and other shortlisted authors, please see our press release.

2019’s judges were Sabrina Mahfouz, Michèle Roberts and Ian Thomson.


Past winners

2019Aida EdemariamThe Wife’s Tale: A Personal History
2018Pascale PetitMama Amazonica
2017Francis SpuffordGolden Hill
2016Peter PomerantsevNothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia
2015Justin MarozziBaghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood
2014Alan JohnsonThis Boy
2013Philip HensherScenes from Early Life
2012Rahul BhattacharyaThe Sly Company of People Who Care
2011Edmund de WaalThe Hare with Amber Eyes
2010Ian ThomsonThe Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica
2009Adam NicolsonSissinghurst: An Unfinished History
2008Graham RobbThe Discovery of France
2007Hisham MatarIn the Country of Men
2006James MeekThe People’s Act of Love
2005Rory StewartThe Places In Between
2004Louisa WaughHearing Birds Fly