By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2
‘Crimes Against HumanityHuman rights lawyer Philippe Sands has been named the winner of the £30,000 (US$37,200) Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction for East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
East West Street uses historical, legal and familiar narratives to tell the story of the origins of international law beginning and ending with the last day of the Nuremberg Trial,as well as Sands’ family history during World War II.
In an interview given for the awards ceremony, Philippe Sands says:
“As a litigator you are a storyteller.
“East West Street is really a double detective story. It’s a search to unlock a family secret: the circumstances in which my grandfather and my grandmother, along with my mother, left Vienna in the course of the years that followed.
“And then it’s a detective story about the origins of crimes against humanity and genocide: two subjects that occupy my life as an academic but also as a practicing lawyer doing cases in international courts.”
Press materials describe Philippe Sands as “Professor of Law at University College London and a practicing barrister at Matrix Chambers. He frequently appears before international courts, including the International Criminal Court and the World Court in The Hague, and has been involved in many of the most important cases of recent years, including Pinochet, Congo, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Iraq and Guantanamo. His previous books include Lawless World (on the Iraq war), and Torture Team (on the embrace of torture by the Bush Administration).”
Stephanie Flanders, chair of the judges, is quoted as commenting, “Any one of the shortlisted books would have been a worthy winner. But in the end we all agreed that Philippe Sands had pulled off something extraordinary with this book that deserved to reach as wide an audience as possible.
“This is not just one story but several different stories, woven together—each important and each deeply personal to the author. The result is a multi-layered history that is impressive in its own right but also a satisfying, suspenseful read. A stunning achievement.”
Along with East West Street, the three other titles on the shortlist were Svetlana Alexievich’s Second-Hand Time; Margo Jefferson’s Negroland: A Memoir; and Hisham Matar’s The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between.
The Baillie Gifford Prize is intended to reward the best of nonfiction and is open to authors of any nationality. It covers all nonfiction in the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts.
Formerly known as The Samuel Johnson Prize (1999 – 2015), it is considered the leading nonfiction accolade in the UK.