David Blackburn

The Orwell Prize

As Roy Greenslade notes, the Orwell Prize aims to reward those who have come closest to achieving Orwell’s ambition of ‘making political writing an art’. The Orwell Prize’s shortlist has been released today. Shortlist is something of a misnomer, as a glance at the exhaustive categories will reveal. Perhaps, in time, there will be a Twitter prize.

The major category is the book prize. The shortlist is impressive: Helen Dunmore’s The Betrayal, an exploration of Stalin’s Russia after the Second World War. The late Lord Bingham’s The Rule of Law, a masterful examination of the balance of law in Britain and strangely humane and uplifting for such a theoretically considered book; Jonathan Sumption reviewed it for the Spectator. Christopher Hitchens’ apparent Swansong, Hitch-22 – a memoir of vivacious wit, acidic judgements and irrestistible personality – is on the list; it was reviewed for the Spectator by Alexander Waugh.

Oliver Bullough’s journey in the Caucasus Mountains, Let Our Fame Be Great, D.R. Thorpe’s biography of Harold Macmillan, and Ahsaney Maqadan’s Death to the Dictator! complete the list. Maqadan is a nom de plume, protecting his or her identity from the Iranian regime that is the subject of Death to the Dictator!, the story of Iran’s recent non-election.

The winner will be announced on 17 May.

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