RSL Ondaatje Prize

This is an annual award of £10,000 for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place.

The 2014 RSL Ondaatje Prize

This year's judges are Imtiaz Dharker, A.L. Kennedy and Jenny Uglow.

The deadline for applications has passed. Shortlisted writers will be announced in the spring.

The 2013 RSL Ondaatje Prize

We are delighted to announce that this year's prize has been won by
Philip Hensher
for Scenes from Early Life. 


This year's judges Julia Blackburn, Margaret Drabble, and Ian Jack have commented of the award:

"A place, whether it is a small room, a forest floor, or an entire continent, is defined by the limitations and freedoms it offers and by the layers of emotion and history it contains. For this prize we are trying to see where and how this elusive spirit has been best captured in a book, of poetry, fiction, biography or personal memoir."


2013 Shortlist:

Liam Carson                    Call mother a lonely field
(Seren/Poetry Wales Press)

Patrick Flanery                Absolution

Gavin Francis                 Empire Antarctica

Philip Hensher              Scenes from Early Life
(Fourth Estate)

Sarah Moss                   Names for the Sea

Zadie Smith                  NW
(Hamish Hamilton)


Download the press releases from the bottom of this page for more details on the winner and all of our shortlist.


Award Date

The 2013 RSL Ondaatje Prize was awarded at a dinner on 13 May at The Travellers Club. If you have any media enquiries, please contact Annette Brook, or download the press releases here.


Past Awards

2012  Rahul Bhattacharya The Sly Company of People Who Care

2011   Edmund de Waal     The Hare with Amber Eyes

2010   Ian Thomson           The Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica

2009   Adam Nicolson       Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History

2008   Graham Robb         The Discovery of France

2007   Hisham Matar         In the Country of Men

2006   James Meek           The People’s Act of Love

2005   Rory Stewart         The Places In Between

2004   Louisa Waugh       Hearing Birds Fly

Apr 2014

Living with Shakespeare

Richard Eyre

Apr 2014

Auden and us

Alexander McCall Smith, Edward Mendelson

May 2014

On Tove Jansson

Ali Smith, Thomas Teal

May 2014

Jun 2014

To tell the truth

Helen Garner, Helen Simpson

Jun 2014

At home with penguins

Tim Blackburn, Vicky Fyson, Sara Wheeler

Jun 2014

On Character

Bernardine Evaristo

Jun 2014

Jun 2014

What we remember

Penelope Lively

Jul 2014

Beginning, middle and end

Karin Altenberg, Jessie Burton, Michael Holroyd, Deborah Moggach


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