Andrew Brown's Fishing in Utopia 'entrances' judges of Britain's pre-eminent award for political writing
Alison Flood writing in the guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 22 April 2009
Guardian journalist Andrew Brown has won the Orwell book prize for his gentle evocation of his love for Sweden, Fishing in Utopia.
Brown, editor of the Belief section of the Guardian's Comment is Free, was presented with the £3,000 award – Britain's most prestigious for political writing – this evening at a ceremony in London. Fishing in Utopia was selected from a hugely eclectic shortlist which also included Hsiao-Hung Pai's undercover investigation into the lives of Chinese immigrants in Britain, Chinese Whispers, and Rashid Ahmed's examination of Islamic extremism, Descent Into Chaos.
"We were simply all entranced by it. I can't put it any differently than that," said former Downing Street adviser and TLS editor Ferdinand Mount, who was one of this year's judges alongside author Geoffrey Wheatcroft, former editor of Granta Ian Jack and chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund Jenny Abramsky.
Fishing in Utopia is both a memoir of Brown's own life in Sweden – he lived there as a child, married a Swedish woman, worked in a timber mill and raised his own son in the country – and an exploration of the country's social and political system. Judges called it "charming and crystalline", and "in its light and easy way ... as profound as it is enchanting".
"As well as being a marvellous book in itself, it does make you reflect on how hard it was for Sweden to transform itself into an industrial state," said Mount.