The Royal Society of Literature (RSL), the voice for the value of literature in the UK, has today revealed the shortlist for the 2021 RSL Ondaatje Prize. An annual prize of £10,000, the RSL Ondaatje Prize is awarded to an outstanding work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry that best evokes the spirit of a place.
The 2021 RSL Ondaatje Shortlist is:
Adam Mars-Jones Box Hill
Nina Mingya Powles Magnolia, 木蘭
James Rebanks English Pastoral
Francesca Wade Square Haunting
Ruth Gilligan is an Irish novelist and journalist and lectures at the University of Birmingham. She has written four novels, including the Irish bestsellers Forget and Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan, and she writes and reviews for the Irish Times, the Irish Independent, TLS and the Guardian
Louise Hare is a London-based writer and has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. Originally from Warrington, the capital is the inspiration for much of her work, including This Lovely City, which began life after a trip into the deep level shelter below Clapham Common.
Adam Mars-Jones’ first collection of stories, Lantern Lecture, won a Somerset Maugham Award in 1982, and he appeared on Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists’ lists in 1983 and 1993. His debut novel, The Waters of Thirst, was published in 1993 by Faber & Faber. He has since published several books including Box Hill and the forthcoming Batlava Lake, publishing June 2021, both with Fitzcarraldo Editions. He writes book reviews for the Observer and the LRB, and about film for the TLS.
Nina Mingya Powles is the author of poetry pamphlets Luminescent and Girl
James Rebanks is a farmer based in the Lake District, where his family have lived and worked for over six hundred years. His No.1 bestselling debut, The Shepherd’s Life, won the Lake District Book of the Year, was shortlisted for the Wainwright, and RSL Ondaatje prizes, and has been translated into sixteen languages.
Francesca Wade has written for publications including the London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Frieze and Prospect. She is outgoing editor of the White Review and a recipient of a Robert B Silvers Grant for Work in Progress and a 2020–21 Fellowship at the Leon Levy Center for Biography. Her first book, Square Haunting, was a Sunday Times Literary Non-Fiction Book of the Year, a Guardian Best Book of the Year (As Chosen by Authors), and was longlisted for the Baille Gifford Prize.
This year the RSL Ondaatje Prize and listed works take on perhaps an even greater significance, given the context of the past 12 months, during which we have remained at home, unable to travel to new places or return to the locations that hold a particular meaning for us.
First awarded in 2004, the premise and broad remit of the Prize is to create unique lists of outstanding works and authors that you would not usually find sitting side by side. Previous recipients of the Prize have included Roger Robinson, Aida Edemariam, Pascale Petit, Francis Spufford, Alan Johnson, Edmund de Waal, Hisham Matar and Louisa Waugh.
The RSL Ondaatje Prize is one of nine annual awards and prizes presented by the RSL which bring the widest possible community of writers and readers together in celebration of the breadth of UK literature. From debut works and unpublished short stories through to the notoriously challenging second novel and outstanding contributions to literature, the RSL’s awards and prizes celebrate the value of the written word in all its forms, whilst supporting emerging and established writers at some of the most challenging moments of their careers. The RSL’s other annual awards and prizes are: Sky Arts RSL Writers Awards, RSL International Writers awards, Encore Award, RSL Christopher Bland Prize, RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards for Non-Fiction, RSL Literature Matters Awards, the V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize and The Benson Medal.
The winner of the 2021 RSL Ondaatje Prize will be announced on Tuesday 11 May.