RSL Ondaatje Prize

The annual award of £10,000 for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place.

RSL Ondaatje Prize 2023

The 2023 RSL Ondaatje Prize winner is Anthony Anaxagorou for Heritage Aesthetics (Granta Poetry).

Anthony Anaxagorou said: “Thank you so much to the judges for seeing the book, for seeing the intention, the vision of trying to bring Cyprus and the UK together. Cyprus has always been very peripheral when it comes to colonial history – it was only made independent in 1960, very late on within Britain’s project to decolonialise (although there are two British Army bases still there). I hope by having the book seen in this way it will bring more readers to Cyprus and to the UK.

Samira Ahmed said:Anthony’s poetry is beautiful, but does not sugarcoat. The arsenic of historical imperial arrogance permeates the Britain he explores in his writing. And the joy of this collection comes from his strength, knowledge, maturity, but also from deeply felt love.”

Roger Robinson said: “With Heritage Aesthetics Anthony Anaxagorou lets the narrative of the poems fracture as if somehow there has been a traumatic event, and that fracture became a form by deconstruction of texts and literatures to make comment not only on them but also on the fact that Cyprus has been shaped by 2000 years of colonial rule. A colonial rule that has caused multiple fractures in the nation’s identity, problematising the idea of familial identity but also how colonial histories have shaped that identity; a lineage of family but also a lineage of suffering under Empire.

Most books dealing with the immigrant experience look back at their country of origin with longing, and mythologising their origin country, but Anaxogorou’s book maintains a strong tone, critique and assessment. A welcome addition to the literature canon of place.

Joelle Taylor said: “A book that pushes the confines of form and language to locate a new aesthetic with which to address the legacies of colonisation. A tour guide, an archive, a personal meditation on belonging. Beautiful.

 

Anthony Anaxagorou is a British-born Cypriot poet, fiction writer, essayist, publisher and poetry educator. His second collection After the Formalities (Penned in the Margins) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, was shortlisted for the 2019 T.S Eliot Prize and was also a Telegraph and Guardian poetry book of the year. Anthony is artistic director of Out-Spoken, a monthly poetry and music night held at London’s Southbank Centre, and publisher of Out-Spoken Press.

For full details, see the press release.

The shortlisted books were:

Anthony Anaxagorou, Heritage Aesthetics (Granta Poetry)

Michelle de Kretser, Scary Monsters (Allen & Unwin)

Shehan Karunatilaka, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida (Sort of Books)

Zaffar Kunial, England’s Green (Faber & Faber)

Priscilla Morris, Black Butterflies (Duckworth)

 

We will open for the 2024 Prize in late summer. If you are a publisher who would like to submit, please email Laura Sibbald to be added to the contact list to be informed when we are taking entries.

Buy the longlisted books from our bookshop.org store by clicking below.


Past winners

2022 Lea Ypi Free
2021 Ruth Gilligan The Butchers
2020 Roger Robinson A Portable Paradise
2019 Aida Edemariam The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History
2018 Pascale Petit Mama Amazonica
2017 Francis Spufford Golden Hill
2016 Peter Pomerantsev Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia
2015 Justin Marozzi Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood
2014 Alan Johnson This Boy
2013 Philip Hensher Scenes from Early Life
2012 Rahul Bhattacharya The Sly Company of People Who Care
2011 Edmund de Waal The Hare with Amber Eyes
2010 Ian Thomson The Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica
2009 Adam Nicolson Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History
2008 Graham Robb The Discovery of France
2007 Hisham Matar In the Country of Men
2006 James Meek The People’s Act of Love
2005 Rory Stewart The Places In Between
2004 Louisa Waugh Hearing Birds Fly

 

Buy the winning books on our bookshop.org page by clicking below.