‘When Women Kill’ Wins the 2022 British Academy Book Prize

In News by Porter Anderson

Commended for revealing ‘attitudes to female homicides,’ Alia Trabucco Zerán’s work of research wins the British Academy’s £25,000 award.

Alia Trabucco Zerán. Image, provided by the British Academy Prize, Greg Allen

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘A Story That Will Resonate Universally’
The British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding has this evening (October 26) announced its 2022 winner, generating the 185th awards-related report in our 191 publishing days of this year.

The £25,000 purse (US$29,074) is claimed by the Chilean author Alia Trabucco Zerán for When Women Kill: Four Crimes Retold, a book translated by Sophie Hughes and published by the independent house And Other Stories.

Zerán and Hughes’ work becomes the 10th recipient of the prize which, of course, began its life as the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding. Zerán’s debut novel, The Remainder, was shortlisted in 2019 for the International Booker Prize. The author is trained as an attorney and, according to the prize regime’s organizers, “expertly blends true-crime writing with the art of the critical essay and investigative memoir” in When Women Kill.”

Zerán’s resulting narrative which not only explores the circumstances around the four killings—so high-profile that they went on to inspire plays, poems and films—but also the reaction from various news media and the judgement of a patriarchal society. Zerán is a former Fulbright scholar and holds a PhD in Spanish and Latin American Studies from University College London. The Remainder won the Chilean Council for the Arts’ honor for an unpublished literary work in 2014, and on publication was chosen by El País as one of its Top 10 debuts of 2015. She is a native of Santiago, Chile, and lives there today. When Women Kill is her second book.

This year, each shortlisted writer in the British Academy Book Prize receives £1,000 (US$1,162).

The 2022 jury for the program has comprised Patrick Wright, the chair, and Madawi Al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics; Catherine Hall, professor emerita of modern British social and cultural history and chair of the Centre for the Study of British Slave Ownership in the history department of University College London; Fatima Manji, a Channel 4 News broadcaster; and journalist Philippe Sands, a lawyer, academic and writer at University College London and Matrix Chambers. Sands is president of English PEN.

Commenting on behalf of the jury, Wright is quoted, saying, “When Women Kill is a highly original and beautifully written work, which uncovers uncomfortable truths about a society and its attitudes to female homicides. This is a timely and important work that invites the reader to reconsider the relationship between gender and violence—not just in Chile but globally.

“Trabucco Zerán has applied her legal training to the creation of this outstanding book, reminding us that research takes many forms and is not only the preserve of the academic world.”

Julia Black, president of the British Academy, is also quoted, saying, “On behalf of the British Academy, it is my honor to congratulate Alia Trabucco Zerán for bringing to our attention a story that will resonate universally, and for reminding us how excellent writing and exemplary research are an essential part of every compelling read.”

The British Academy Book Prize’s Full 2022 Shortlist
Title Author, Translator if any Publisher, Imprint
The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness Katie Booth Scribe UK
Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945-1955 Harald Jähner, translated by Shaun Whiteside Penguin Random House, WHAllen
Osebol: Voices From a Swedish Village Marit Kapla, translated by Peter Graves Penguin Random House, Allen Lane
Horizons: A Global History of Science James Poskett Penguin Random House, Penguin
When Women Kill: Four Crimes Retold Alia Trabucco Zerán, translated by Sophie Hughes And Other Stories
Kingdom of Characters: A Tale of Language, Obsession, and Genius in Modern China Jing Tsu Penguin Random House, Allen Lane

Authors whose work has been shortlisted for the 2022 British Academy Book Award are, upper row from left, Katie Booth; Harald Jähner (image: Barbara Dietl); and Marit Kapla (image: Trinidad Carrillo). And on the lower row from left are James Poskett; Alia Trabucco Zerán (image: Lorena Palavecino); and Jing Tsu (image: Corina Gamma)

As you’ll remember, Sujit Sivasundaram won the 2021 edition of the prize for Waves Across the South: A New History of Revolution and Empire, published by HarperCollins UK’s William Collins. More past winners of the award:

  • Hazel V. Carby for Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands (2020)
  • Toby Green for A Fistful of Shells: West Africa From the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (2019)
  • Kapka Kassabova for Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe (2018)
  • Timothy Garton Ash for Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World (2017)
  • Carole Hillenbrand for Islam: A New Historical Introduction (2016)
  • Neil MacGregor for A History of the World in 100 Objects and Germany: Memories of a Nation (2015)
The Question of an Award Program’s Impact

As we’re pointing out as part of our coverage of many awards programs, it would be helpful if the British Academy Book Prize would track and report on the impact its honor of Alia Trabucco Zerán’s book has on the title’s sales, as well as added press runs if any, and translation rights buys.

For the most part—the Booker Foundation’s prizes being the exception—the myriad award programs in books and publishing don’t make such information available, which makes it hard to assess the value an award may have in marketplace terms.

This is the 185th awards-related report that Publishing Perspectives has carried in the 191 days since our 2022 operations began on January 3.

More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book award programs is here, and on the British Academy Book Prize in its renamed iteration is here. More from us on the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize, the honor’s original iteration, is here

And more on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.