RSL announces 2015 Ondaatje Prize shortlist

The Royal Society of Literature has revealed the shortlist for this year’s Ondaatje Prize, awarded to writers of fiction, non-fiction or poetry resident in the Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland, whose work evokes ‘the spirit of a place’.

This year’s shortlist is: Rana Dasgupta’s non-fictional portrait of 21st century Delhi, Capital (also nominated for this year’s Orwell Prize, which last year shared a winner with the Ondaatje); Orange Prize-winner Helen Dunmore’s novel of the First World War, The Lie; Tobias Hill’s multi-generational family saga set in London’s east end, What Was Promised; Justin Marozzi’s historical portrait Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood; Sigrid Rausing’s account of her time spent completing anthropological fieldwork in a former Soviet border protection zone in Estonia in the early 90s, Everything is Wonderful; and Elif Shafak’s historical novel set in sixteenth century Istanbul, The Architect’s Apprentice.

The judging panel for this year’s prize consists of Tash Aw, Jonathan Keates and Fiona Sampson, who say of the shortlist:

This is a shortlist notable for its seriousness of intent. It has breadth and variety, as all good shortlists do, but the books on the list display an ambition rarely seen elsewhere. These are books that grapple with what seem to be the big issues of the world today – they trouble us, and stay with us long after we’ve finished them.
The winner of the prize – now in its 12th year, and named for for its benefactor, the author, philanthropist and explorer Christopher Ondaatje – will receive £10,000. Recent winners of the prize include Alan Johnson (This Boy: A Memoir of Childhood), Philip Hensher (Scenes From Early Life), Rahul Bhattacharya (The Sly Company of People Who Care), Edmund de Waal (The Hare with Amber Eyes) and Ian Thomson (The Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica).