The UK’s Ondaatje Prize: A 2024 Longlist

In News by Porter Anderson

The 20th anniversary Ondaatje Prize for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that ‘evok[es] the spirit of place’ announces its 2024 longlist.

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

A Shortlist Is Due by April 26
The Royal Society of Literature in the United Kingdom for 20 years now has produced the Ondaatje Prize. Having been created in 2004 and thus now in its 20th anniversary, we will this year carry news of its honors.

In light of the ongoing controversy over the plethora of awards contests in the UK, we will not be carrying news of these competitions, which are also produced by the Royal Society of Literature:

  • International Writers awards
  • Companions of Literature
  • Encore Award
  • Christopher Bland Prize
  • Entente Littéraire Prize
  • The Giles St Aubyn Awards for Nonfiction
  • V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize
  • Literature Matters Awards
  • Sky Arts Writers Awards
  • Benson Medal

Especially in a single book market—and hardly the world market with the most readers in its home audience—such a plethora of awards as the United Kingdom confers inevitably creates a nation of readers with glazed-over eyes. The multitude golden stickers renders those things mere shiny decor on book covers. The meaning of so many honors becomes harder to assess and less worth the time it might take to determine.

At the least, we’d like to take the opportunity of covering the Ondaatje Prize to ask its well-intended organizers to consider joining the Booker Prize Foundation, the Baillie Gifford Prize regime, and the British Academy in working to assess what impact a win for a title might have on sales in the weeks and months that follow each year’s award cycle. Until prize organizers begin to follow the leads of the Booker, Baillie Gifford, and British Academy programs in this, the supposed benefit of these many, many, many contests will remain just that: supposed, imagined, assumed, and unproven.

Briefly, then, the outlines of this contest:

  • The Ondaatje Prize is annual and it offers a purse of £10,000 (US$12,629) to its winner.
  • It can be given to a writer of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry that, in the jury’s purview, “best evokes the spirit of a place.”
  • This contest is limited to works by writers who are citizens of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, or the Republic of Ireland “or a writer who has been resident in the UK for three years.”
  • This year’s program is expected to cut this longlist of 14 titles to a shortlist by April 26 and two a single winner by May 14.
The UK’s 2024 Ondaatje Prize Longlist
Alice Albinia The Britannias Penguin Random House
Sheila Armstrong Falling Animals Bloomsbury Circus
Laura Cumming Thunderclap: A Memoir of Art and Life and Sudden Death Penguin Random House / Chatto & Windus
Emily Hasler Local Interest Liverpool University Press
Diarmuld Hester Nothing Ever Just Disappears: Seven Hidden Histories Penguin Random House
Isabella Hammad Enter Ghost Grove Press
John Kampfner In Search of Berlin Atlantic Books
Noreen Masud A Flat Place Penguin Random House / Hamilton Hamish
Benjamin Myers Cuddy Bloomsbury
David Nash No Man’s Land Dedalus Press
Ian Penman Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors Pan Macmillan / Picador
Cecile Pin Wandering Souls HarperCollins
James Roberts Two Lights: Walking Through Landscapes of Loss and LIfe September Publishing
William Henry Searle Elowen: A Story of Grief and Love Little Toller Books

More from Publishing Perspectives on book prizes and similar contests is here, and more on the United Kingdom’s market 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.