The Bodley Head/Financial Times Essay Prize aims to discover young talent from around the world in long-form essay writing, and has led to many new and exciting opportunities for winners and runners-up. Hedley Twidle, winner of the very first prize, is now a regular contributor to the FT and other outlets including the New Statesman. Adnan Sarwar, 2013’s winner, has written widely for the press in the UK. Edward Posnett won in 2014 for his essay ‘Eiderdown’ and has his first book, Harvest, due for publication with The Bodley Head in 2017. Last year’s winner, Laurence Blair, has also recently been signed up by The Bodley Head to write his first book, which expands on his 2015 prize-winning essay ‘Dreams of the sea’.
“FT Weekend is immensely proud of its sponsorship of the essay prize,” says Alec Russell, editor of FT Weekend. “The essay and long-form journalism more broadly have happily defied many doom-laden predictions and are flourishing in digital forms. But in an age of ‘churnalism’ and ‘post-fact’ politics the quest for finding and nurturing new writers is all the more important.”
2016 winner: ‘Cash and curry’
Chris Newens on how demonetisation and a TV chef inspired an unlikely Indian pilgrimage
2015 winner: ‘Dreams of the sea’
Laurence Blair on Bolivia’s battle to reclaim its lost coastline — and the extraordinary backup plan taking shape 2,000km away from the ocean
2014 winner: ‘Upside of down’
Edward Posnett explores the links between Icelanders, ducks and capitalism
2013 winner: ‘British Muslim Soldier’
As a British Pakistani boy growing up in Burnley, Lancashire, Adnan Sarwar endured racial abuse. Here he explores what led him to join the Army
2012 winner: ‘Getting past Coetzee’
Hedley Twidle on his life as a South African academic working in the shadow of the Man Booker-winning author
Simon Schama: ‘Why I write’
To launch the inaugural Bodley Head/FT Essay Prize, Simon Schama reveals why Dickens’ abundance and Orwell’s severity are equally inspiring
Deadline for submissions is January 29 2017 (midnight GMT).Please enter using our application form, where you can also upload your essay
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Naomi Alderman is the only novelist to make it on to the longlist for the 2017 Orwell prize for outstanding political writing, in a year when George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is once again troubling the bestseller lists.
Alderman’s The Power heads a 14-strong list of books that span anthropology, politics, memoir and history for an accolade considered Britain’s most prestigious for political writing, which comes with a cash award of £3,000. Described as The Hunger Games crossed with The Handmaid’s Tale, Alderman’s dystopian novel examines the roots and impact of misogyny by reversing the gender roles in a future society ruled by women. The novel has also been longlisted for the 2017 Bailey’s prize for women’s fiction, and shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust science writing prize.
No overall theme emerges from the longlist, which includes four books by women. Helen Pearson, whose The Life Project is an account of the UK’s pioneering cohort studies run since 1946, is listed beside Somali FGM campaigner Hibo Wardere for her memoir Cut, co-written with Anna Wharton. Irish revisionist historian Ruth Dudley Edwards is longlisted for The Seven, one of four of history books on the list. It tells the story of the seven founding fathers of the Irish state.
Other history books on the list are Easternisation, by the chief foreign affairs commentator of the Financial Times, Gideon Rachman – the winner of the Orwell prize for political journalism last year – who documents the shift of global power to Asia; John Bew’s biography of the postwar Labour prime minister Clement Attlee, Citizen Clem; along with And The Sun Shines Now, a vivid account by Hillsborough survivor Adrian Tempany of the football disaster’s impact on the game and wider society.
Joining them on the longlist is Black and British: A Forgotten History, David Olusoga’s landmark history of Britain’s black community, which has also been shortlisted for the inaugural Jhalak prize for writers of colour.
Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian Century by Gideon Rachman – review
Fellow Jhalak nominee and Guardian editor-at-large Gary Younge is also longlisted for Another Day in the Death of America, which documents the lives of 10 people killed by guns in the US on 23 November 2013. Author Gillian Slovo described the book as “a gripping account of the conditions that turn so many of America’s powerless into victims”.
Hisham Matar, the Libyan writer who was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford prize for non-fiction, is again nominated with The Return, his account of his father’s kidnapping at the hands of Muammar Gaddafi’s government.
More recent politics is also documented in the books All Out War, Tim Shipman’s account of the 2016 EU referendum; Island Story, Londoner JD Taylor’s story of biking around Britain to discover other sides to UK identity; Enough Said, a look at the evolution of political language by the former BBC director-general Mark Thompson; and The Marches by Rory Stewart, Tory MP and son of a spy, who reflects on his relationship with his father and its political contexts as he walks along Hadrian’s Wall.
Announcing the longlist, the judges – Financial Times comment editor Jonathan Derbyshire, playwright and author Bonnie Greer, writer and broadcaster Mark Lawson and critic Erica Wagner – praised the list for offering “a clear and calm perspective on Britain and its place in the world”.
“The books reflect many aspects of Orwell’s literary character and interests: fiction, journalism, football, language and landscape,” the judges added.
The shortlist will be announced on 15 May, with a winner revealed at a ceremony during University College London’s festival of culture on 8 June.
The Orwell Prize for Books 2017 longlist
The Power by Naomi Alderman (Viking)
Citizen Clem by John Bew (Quercus)
The Seven by Ruth Dudley Edwards (Oneworld)
The Return by Hisham Matar (Viking)
Black and British by David Olusoga (Macmillan)
The Life Project by Helen Pearson (Allen Lane)
Easternisation by Gideon Rachman (The Bodley Head)
All Out War by Tim Shipman (William Collins, Harper Collins UK)
The Marches by Rory Stewart (Vintage, Jonathan Cape)
Island Story by JD Taylor (Repeater)
And the Sun Shines Now by Adrian Tempany (Faber & Faber)
Enough Said by Mark Thompson (The Bodley Head)
Cut by Hibo Wardere, in collaboration with Anna Wharton (Simon & Schuster)
Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge (Guardian Faber)