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Orwell Prize 2024 winners announced

In the UK, Hisham Matar and Matthew Longo have won the 2024 Orwell Prizes, reports the Bookseller.

Matar won the Orwell prize for political fiction for his novel My Friends (Viking), which explores the fallout of the 1984 shootings at the Libyan embassy in London, and its effect on three Libyan friends living in exile in Britain. Chair of the political fiction panel Alexandra Harris said: ‘My Friends is a work of grace, gentleness, beauty and intellect, offered in the face of blunt violence and tyranny. The shootings at the Libyan embassy in London in 1984 reverberate through the novel, defining the lives of young men who cannot risk return to their families and their native country. Matar’s response to those gunshots is a richly sustained meditation on exile and friendship, love and distance, deepening with each page as layers of recollection and experience accrue.’

Longo won the prize for nonfiction political writing for The Picnic: An escape to freedom and the collapse of the Iron Curtain (Bodley Head), which explores the disintegration of the Soviet Union through a story of the 1989 actions of a group of Hungarian activists who entered the forbidden militarised zone of the Iron Curtain and had a picnic. Chair of the nonfiction judging panel Peter Frankopan said: ‘It was incredibly difficult to choose a winner from this year’s shortlist which included an unusual number of modern classics—books that will be read for years. Perhaps there were too many fantastic books because we are living through an era of change, and so political nonfiction writing is so resonant; or perhaps we were just unusually lucky.’

The two winners, who each receive £3000 ($A5683), were chosen from shortlists announced earlier this month.

The Orwell Prizes are awarded to one nonfiction and one fiction work that each come closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. More information about the prize is on the Orwell Foundation website.


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