The shortlists for this year’s Orwell Prize, awarded annually to political books and journalism, have been revealed. Nominated books are: Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman
(Hurst); Frank Dikötter’s The Tragedy of Liberation
(Bloomsbury); James Fergusson’s The World’s Most Dangerous Place
(Bantam, Random House); David Goodhart’s The British Dream
(Atlantic); Alan Johnson’s This Boy
(Bantam, Random House); and Charles Moore’s Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography
(Penguin Allen Lane). Nominated journalists are Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, James Astill, Aditya Chakrabortty, Jonathan Freedland, AA Gill, Gideon Rachman and Mary Riddell.
Moore’s Thatcher biography has drawn the most attention of all the nominees to date, and has been subject to debate over the merits of its inclusion in an award designed to commemorate a political radical since placing in the awards’ longlist, not only for ultimately coming down on the side of an establishment figure but for gaining the approval of her estate in so doing. Prize director Jean Seaton, however, tells The Guardian
: ‘I think [Orwell] would say that the book is incredibly adept and sharp and astute about her. Personally I think it is an extraordinary book, a psychological insight into her, although just at the end [Moore] arrives on the side of her politics.’ She continues: ‘what he would have thought of it I don’t know. That’s the thing about Orwell – he is not predictable. And I’m not going to let Orwell be captured by some parts of the political spectrum. He was a radical, both in his ideas and his extraordinary integrity.’
The prize’s stated aim
is to ‘award prizes for the work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’.’ It was established in 1994 by Professor Bernard Crick with the royalties from his own biography of Orwell, ‘to encourage writing in good English – while giving equal value to style and content, politics or public policy, whether political, economic, social or cultural – of a kind aimed at or accessible to the reading public, not to specialist or academic audiences’. This year’s judges are Sue MacGregor, Robert McCrum and Trevor Phillips, and as always, they will be asked ‘to be as objective as possible and put their own political views aside’.