Thursday, April 26, 2012

Orwell Prize: judges hail strong shortlist but snub Christopher Hitchens

The last book written by outspoken essayist Christopher Hitchens was considered a shoe-in for the Orwell Prize shortlist.
Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens Photo: REX

Hitchens has been described as the heir to Orwell, but never won the £3,000 prize which seeks to reward the art of political writing.
It was widely whispered among critics that Hitchens, who died aged 62 in December after a long battle with cancer, would likely receive posthumous recognition this year.
His last book, Arguably, was published in September and received unanimous praised by critics who called it characteristic of his wit and bold style. After his death politicians including Tony Blair and Nick Clegg came out in praise of the prolific commentator; Blair called him “fearless in the pursuit of truth and any cause in which he believed.”
A record 264 books were put up for the prize this year. Tonight, judges announced that they have whittled a longlist of 18 titles down to six before the winner is announced at a ceremony in London on 23 May.
Among the finalists for the main book award are an investigation into the Manchester gang crime dubbed the English version of hit US TV series The Wire, an investigation into murky world of cyber-crime, and two books which have been the subject of legal controversy.
Written by Telegraph correspondent Toby Harnden, the book described as “an intimate and unflinching portrait of soldiers under fire” by Orwell judge Samir Rahim.
Siddhartha Deb’s look at “new India” in The Beautiful and the Damned, had a chapter cut out of it before it was published in India. The full story was published, however, in the US and UK, and Rahim describes it as “utterly in the spirit of Orwell’s own reporting”.
The Orwell Prize was founded in 1993 by Bernard Crick who decided to use royalties from George Orwell’s biography to award a book which came closest to living up to the Animal Farm writer’s goal to “make political writing into art.” Last year’s award was given posthumously to British jurist and human rights expert Thomas Bingham, which was described as a clear guide to law made accessible to lay people.
As well as the book award, the Orwell Prize also honours an outstanding work of political journalism and - for the last three years - an online blog.

The shortlisted books
The Beautiful and the Damned by Siddhartha Deb
The Opium War by Julia Lovell
Dead Men Risen by Toby Harnden
Unfair Trade by Conor Woodman
Dark Market by Misha Glenny
Hood Rat by Gavin Knight
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