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

We are now open for submissions for the 16th year of the £10,000 Prize for fiction, non-fiction or poetry best evoking the spirit of a place. Entries must be published in the United Kingdom within the calendar year 2019 and entered only by publishers based in the United Kingdom. Entries may be written by a citizen of the UK, Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland or a writer who has been resident in the UK for three years.

Publishers should download the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2020 Entry Form which contains full eligibility details and how to enter. When submitting, please also provide a completed RSL Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form for the author.

Closing date for submissions Wednesday 11 December 2019.


Winner 2019

Aida Edemariam won the 2019 RSL Ondaatje Prize with The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History (4th Estate). The annual Prize of £10,000 is awarded for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place.

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

The Wife’s Tale is beautifully written, carefully researched and richly imagined, an exquisite blend of memoir, fiction, poetry and invocation. This is a book I shall constantly re-read as well as recommend to everyone I know who loves literature.

Michèle Roberts – Judge, RSL Ondaatje Prize 2019

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

This year’s judges are Sabrina Mahfouz, Michèle Roberts and Ian Thomson.

If you have any media enquiries, please contact Annette Brook: or call 020 7845 4680.


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