Lucy Hughes-Hallett's biography of Italian artist Gabriele D'Annunzio, The Pike (4th Estate), has won the £20,000 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.
Hughes-Hallett took the award at a ceremony at London's Royal Institute of British Architects yesterday evening (Monday 4th November).
The Pike tells of D’Annunzio's evolution from idealist Romantic to radical right-wing revolutionary, culminating in the failure of his attempt to establish a utopia based on his fascist and artistic ideals.
Martin Rees, chair of the judges, said: “Readers of The Pike will surely admire Lucy Hughes-Hallett's writing, and her intricate crafting of the narrative. Her original experimentation with form transcends the conventions of biography. And they will be transfixed by her vivid portrayal of D'Annunzio - how this repellent egotist quickly gained literary celebrity - and how, thereafter, his incendiary oratory, and foolhardy bravery influenced Italy's involvement in World War I and the subsequent rise of Mussolini. The book shows how fascism rose partly as a perversion of nationalism - a trend still sadly relevant in today's world."
Also judging were classicist Mary Beard, Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, historian Peter Hennessy and writer James McConnachie.
Also shortlisted for the award were volume one of Charles Moore's authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher (Allen Lane); Dave Goulson's bumblebee study A Sting in the Tale and Charlotte Higgins' encounter with Roman Britain, Under Another Sky (both Jonathan Cape); Empires of the Dead by David Crane (William Collins); and William Dalrymple's book on the first British invasion of Afghanistan, Return of the King (Bloomsbury).
Photo credit: Andy Paradise