Orwell Prize 2011 Shortlists Announced

April 26, 2011

  • 6 books, 7 journalists and 7 bloggers remain in contention for £3000 prizes
  • Winners to be announced on 17th May
  • Shortlists revealed at debate, ‘is it time to make monarchy history?’

The shortlists for this year’s Orwell Prize, Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing, have been announced today, Tuesday 26th April, at Thomson Reuters, Canary Wharf.

The shortlist announcements (from 7pm) were followed by the annual shortlist debate, this time on the question ‘is it time to make monarchy history?’. The debate featured Peter Hitchens (winner of the Orwell Prize for Journalism 2010), Sunder Katwala (general secretary of the Fabian Society, longlisted for the Blog Prize 2011), Iain McLean (professor of politics, University of Oxford), Joan Smith (journalist, author and supporter of Republic), and Gerry Stoker (professor of politics and governance, University of Southampton), chaired by Jodie Ginsberg (UK and Ireland bureau chief, Thomson Reuters). The shortlists were announced by Jean Seaton (director of the Orwell Prize).

Book Prize

A record 213 books were whittled down to a longlist of 18 and then the shortlist of 6 by this year’s judges, Jim Naughtie (presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today and Bookclub programmes, former chair of the Man Booker Prize judges), Ursula Owen (founder director of Virago Press, former editor of Index on Censorship, project director of the Free Word Centre) and Will Skidelsky (books editor of The Observer).

The shortlisted books are:

  • Bingham, Tom The Rule of Law (Allen Lane)
  • Bullough, Oliver Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys Among the Defiant People of the Caucasus (Penguin)
  • Dunmore, Helen The Betrayal (Fig Tree)
  • Hitchens, Christopher Hitch-22 (Atlantic Books)
  • Moqadam, Afsaneh Death to the Dictator! (The Bodley Head)
  • Thorpe, D. R. Supermac: The Life of Harold MacMillan (Chatto & Windus)

Penguin takes three slots on this year’s shortlist, with Random House following closely behind with two. Atlantic’s Christopher Hitchens, author of Orwell’s Victory, is the brother of last year’s Journalism Prize winner, Peter. Helen Dunmore’s The Betrayal is the first novel on the shortlist since Marina Lewycka’s Two Caravans (2008, although Petina Gappah’s collection of short stories, An Elegy for Easterly, made last year’s list).

Director of the Prize, Jean Seaton, said: ‘There is a recurrent theme in this year’s books, and it is very Orwellian: fear. For the first time we have had to seek to preserve the anonymity of an author, Afsaneh Moqadam on Iran, and from Dunmore’s gripping novel about life in Stalin’s Russia to Oliver Bullough on a previously unknown genocide, the horror of authoritarian power is displayed.

‘But there is an answering theme – from Tom Bingham’s Rule of Law which lays out (for all societies) how law not just written down but in practice preserves liberty and order, to Thorpe’s wonderfully humane biography of Macmillan, seamlessly weaving the personal and the affairs of state to Christopher Hitchens’ grand memoir, full of brilliant writing and sharp judgements brimming with a very particular life – that cherishes the individual.’

Journalism Prize

This year’s shortlist of 7 journalists (instead of the usual 6) came from the longlist of 15 journalists (up from the usual 12), out of a record field of 87 journalists. This year’s judges are Martin Bright (political editor of the Jewish Chronicle, founder and chief executive of New Deal of the Mind, shortlisted for the Journalism Prize 2007) and Michela Wrong (journalist and author, previously shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for all three of her books).

The shortlisted journalists are:

  • Collins, Philip The Times
  • Gentleman, Amelia The Guardian
  • Mayer, Catherine TIME
  • Rachman, Gideon Financial Times
  • Russell, Jenni Sunday Times; The Guardian
  • Shabi, Rachel The Guardian
  • Walsh, Declan The Guardian; Granta

Amelia Gentleman is shortlisted for a second consecutive year. Shortlisted Gideon Rachman was longlisted for last year’s Blog Prize. Journalism from TIME (with Catherine Mayer), the Financial Times (with Gideon Rachman) and Granta (with Declan Walsh) is recognised on an Orwell Prize shortlist for the first time.

Director of the Prize, Jean Seaton, said: ‘Wikileaks has shown how vital journalism is to creating public knowledge out of facts: and this year’s shortlist covers the strengths of modern reporting, out on the streets of Britain and the world, witnessing and telling important  stories – and then the other end, judging, provoking, thinking.’

Blog Prize

7 bloggers, rather than the usual 6, have been shortlisted for this year’s Prize. 22 bloggers (rather than the usual 12) were longlisted from a record 205 entries. This year’s judges are David Allen Green (shortlisted for the Blog Prize 2010 as ‘Jack of Kent’) and Gaby Hinsliff (journalist and blogger, former political editor of The Observer).

The shortlisted bloggers are:

Paul Mason, cited in Newsnight’s Special Prize win in 2007, is shortlisted for a second time (having been previously shortlisted for the inaugural Blog Prize in 2009). The Heresiarch was previously longlisted in 2009.

Director of the Prize, Jean Seaton, said: ‘Blogging is mutating faster than a fruit fly in a scientific experiment: now in its third year, the Blog Prize shows how this new vehicle for writing is both taking us into areas of private and unreported experience (like the inner life of politics in Mid-Wife Crisis), but also finding new voices, magnanimous and distinct.’

The winners of the Orwell Prizes – each worth £3000 – will be announced at an awards ceremony at Church House, Westminster, on Tuesday 17th May, 6.30 for 7pm.

The Orwell Prize will also be returning to the Buxton Festival this summer as part of its programme of public events. Nick Cohen (previously shortlisted for What’s Left?), Linda Grant (Orange Prize-winning novelist) and Matthew Parris (winner of the Orwell Prize for Journalism 2005) will answer the question, ‘is politics corrupted by corrupted language?’, marking the 65th anniversary of Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’.

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. The Orwell Prize is Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. Every year, prizes are awarded to the work – for the book, for the journalism and for the blog – which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. Each Prize is worth £3000.

2. The Prize was founded by the late Professor Sir Bernard Crick in its present form in 1993, awarding its first prizes in 1994. The Media Standards Trust, Political Quarterly and Orwell Trust are partners in running the Prize, through the Council of the Orwell Prize. Richard Blair (Orwell’s son), A. M. Heath and Thomson Reuters are sponsors.

3. For further information, please contact the Deputy Director, Gavin Freeguard, at gavin.freeguard@mediastandardstrust.org or 0207 229 5722.