By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘Both Harrowing and Inspiring’In a program tonight (May 8) at the British Library in London, The Times Asia editor Richard Lloyd Parry has been named winner of the £20,000 (US$28,328) Rathbones Folio Prize for his book Ghosts of the Tsunami, published in the UK by Penguin Random House’s Jonathan Cape and in the States by FSG’s MCD Books.
This competition is unusual for its interest in “the best work of literature of the year, regardless of form,” which means its jurors consider both fiction and nonfiction in English.
Lloyd Parry was in Tokyo at the time of the March 11, 2011 earthquake that triggered a 120-foot tsunami, killing some 18,500 people and causing the three-core meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. He spent six years reporting from the disaster zone on the fourth most powerful quake in seismology history, a temblor that, Lloyd Parry writes in the book, would move Japan four feet closer to the United States and knock the earth 10 inches off its axis.
The aftermath of the catastrophe produced many stories of ghosts, even exorcisms, not least because of questions about what happened to children and adults when evacuations weren’t performed in a country, as he writes, that has “no excuse for not being prepared for earthquakes.”
Lloyd Parry is a 22-year foreign correspondent, having worked in 21 countries. His other books include In the Time of Madness from Indonesia and People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo-And the Evil That Swallowed Her Up.
The jurors—this year Nikesh Shukla, Jim Crace, and Kate Summerscale—have issued a ringing endorsement as their rationale for their decision, saying, “From a shortlist of eight powerful, moving, important books, we have selected Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry as our winner.
“It is a piece of heightened reportage about the 2011 Japanese earthquake and its devastating aftermaths, rendered as great literature. It is both harrowing and inspiring.
“Here is a book which not only interprets for a non-Japanese reader the subtleties and complexities of that nation’s life, especially its family life and how it copes with grief, but also has the depth and reach to close the gaps between other nations, other cultures. Read it and you will be changed for the better.”
A paperback edition of the book is scheduled for a May 24 release in the UK, and an August 30 release in the US.
The Folio prize signed Rathbones Investment Management as its patron in 2016 and is notable for its 250-member invitational academy of publishing players.
In a prepared statement, Rathbones CEO Philip Howell is quoted, saying, “Our heartfelt congratulations go to Richard Lloyd Parry for winning the Rathbones Folio Prize 2018. Being cross-genre, this prize highlights the diversity of great writing and for Lloyd Parry to be elevated above such a strong shortlist is an impressive feat.
“Colleagues at Rathbones, clients and friends have all greatly enjoyed exploring the shortlist proving the power of the written word to engage, challenge and connect. We look forward to our continued collaboration with the Folio Academy Foundation in support of the Rathbones Folio Prize and our other programs, such as Rathbones Folio Mentorships for young writers and Rathbones BookBubble digital reading program.”
The previous winners of the prize, established in 2013 as a challenge to the Man Booker Prize, are George Saunders (2014), Akhil Sharma (2015), and Isham Matar (2017). No prize was given in 2016 when the Folio was searching for a new sponsor.
The 2018 shortlist of eight titles included, in addition to Lloyd Parry’s winning book, comprised:
- Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (Viking)
- Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (Faber)
- Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton)
- Once Upon A Time In The East by Xiaolu Guo (Chatto & Windus)
- Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (4th Estate)
- The Day That Went Missing by Richard Beard (Harvill Secker)
- White Tears by Hari Kunzru (Hamish Hamilton)