RSL Ondaatje Prize 2022 Shortlist Announced

We’re delighted to announce the shortlist for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2022, as selected by this year’s judges Sandeep Parmar (Chair), Patrice Lawrence and Philippe Sands!

An annual prize of £10,000, the RSL Ondaatje Prize is awarded by the RSL to an outstanding work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry that best evokes the spirit of a place.

Congratulations to:

A.K. Blakemore, The Manningtree Witches (Granta)

Cal Flyn, Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape (William Collins)

Yousif M. Qasmiyeh, Writing the Camp (Broken Sleep Books)

Sathnam Sanghera, Empireland (Viking)

Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees (Penguin)

Lea Ypi, Free (Allen Lane)

Here’s what our shortlisted authors had to say:

A.K. Blakemore: “I am absolutely honoured that The Manningtree Witches has been shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize, one of the most exciting and eclectic awards I know of. I’m so pleased the judges enjoyed my evocation of a liminal little corner of Essex, and congratulate all the other authors.”

Cal Flyn: “Expressing a sense of place—or, in the prize’s beautiful phrase, ‘the spirit of a place’—is an element of writing that I have sweated over and think a great deal about. So I am just over the moon to have been shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize. I can’t thank the judges and the Royal Society of Literature enough.”

Yousif M. Qasmiyeh: “In the refugee camp, the spirit of the place does not only belong to the camp itself, but also, and always, to places that lie before and after the camp. It is a huge honour for Writing the Camp to be shortlisted for the 2022 RSL Ondaatje Prize and for refugees and their places, wherever they are, to be recognised in their own right.”

Sathnam Sanghera: “For me, Empireland is as much of a campaign as a book – an effort to get this country and educators to wake up to its imperial history. And a blue-chip shortlisting like this makes a real difference.”

Elif Shafak: I am utterly thrilled and honoured to be shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize. A sense of place in literature, as in life, is always much more than a location, a landscape or a setting for a story. Place, for me, is primarily about memory, identity, belonging, migration; it is about being rooted, deracinated and finding new roots. Place is both home and exile.”

Lea Ypi: “I am delighted and honoured to be on the shortlist for the RSL Ondaatje Prize. I also very much hope that evoking the spirit of Albania will inspire readers of FREE to visit the country!”

Looking ahead, the 2022 RSL Ondaatje Prize winner will be announced on Wednesday 4 May at Two Temple Place.

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