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 2021

The 2021 Prize is now closed for entries.

This year’s judges are Lola, Baroness Young of Hornsey (Chair), Helen Mort and Adam Rutherford.

The Winner 2020

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.

‘Winning the RSL Ondaatje Prize is great on many levels. Gaining wider recognition for the political issues that are raised in A Portable Paradiseis one of the most important things for me, alongside more people reading about the struggles of black communities in Britain which hopefully creates some deeper resonating empathy.’ Roger Robinson

Roger Robinson appeared at the following events:

Press enquiries should be sent to Annette Brook, Communications Manager, [email protected]

For questions about awards and prizes, please contact Martha Stenhouse, General Manager, [email protected]

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


RSL Ondaatje Prize 2020 –  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 Clarke When the Tree Falls (Bloodaxe Books)
Laura Cumming On Chapel Sands (Chatto & Windus)
Lucy Ellmann Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press)
Luan Goldie Nightingale Point (HQ Fiction)
Adam Higginbotham Midnight in Chernobyl (Bantam Press)
Kathleen Jamie Surfacing (Sort of Books)
Tim Mackintosh-Smith Arabs:
A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes, and Empires
(Yale University Press London)
Philip Marsden The Summer Isles (Granta Books)
Robert Minhinnick Nia (Seren)
Anita Mir The Inside City (Unbound Digital)
Max Porter Lanny (Faber & Faber)
Anna Sherman The Bells of Old Tokyo: Travels in Japanese Time (Picador)

Please read the Longlist press release for more information.


Past winners

2019 Aida Edemariam The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History
2018 Pascale Petit Mama Amazonica
2017 Francis Spufford Golden Hill
2016 Peter Pomerantsev Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia
2015 Justin Marozzi Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood
2014 Alan Johnson This Boy
2013 Philip Hensher Scenes from Early Life
2012 Rahul Bhattacharya The Sly Company of People Who Care
2011 Edmund de Waal The Hare with Amber Eyes
2010 Ian Thomson The Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica
2009 Adam Nicolson Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History
2008 Graham Robb The Discovery of France
2007 Hisham Matar In the Country of Men
2006 James Meek The People’s Act of Love
2005 Rory Stewart The Places In Between
2004 Louisa Waugh Hearing Birds Fly