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The Spirit of a Place


Alan Johnson, Pascale Petit, Peter Pomerantsev and Hisham Matar celebrate 15 years of the RSL Ondaatje Prize.

Celebrating 15 years of the RSL Ondaatje Prize, four past winners discuss the challenges and delights of writing to evoke the spirit of a place. Pascale Petit’s collection of poetry, Mama Amazonica, which explores motherhood, illness and pain through the foliage and creatures of the Amazon rainforest, won the 2018 Prize. Peter Pomerantsev’s winning book in 2016, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, is a journey into the political and ethical landscape of modern Russia. In 2013, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson won the Prize with This Boy, a visceral memoir of growing up poor in 1950s and 60s London. Hisham Matar’s debut novel set within the highly charged political landscape of Libya, In the Country of Men, won in 2007. In this event, chaired by presenter and broadcaster Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, past winners discuss their prize-winning books and how the connections between the physical, cultural and personal landscapes of our lives can be revealed through literature.

The RSL Ondaatje Prize was founded in 2003. We are grateful to Sir Christopher Ondaatje for sponsoring the Prize.

Recorded on: October 16, 2019
Recorded at: British Library Knowledge Centre