Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award shortlist revealed

Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award shortlist revealed

The six-strong shortlist for the 2021 Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award has been revealed, featuring yet-to-be-published authors from the UK, Spain, Argentina and Chile.

Announced by the British Library and Hay Festival, the £20,000 prize is granted annually to writers in the creative stages of a new project relating to North, Central or South America, or the Caribbean.

Winners are also awarded a year’s research residency at the British Library and access to a dedicated platform at Hay Festival events in the UK, Europe and Latin America upon publication of their book.

Among the shortlist is Andrés Barba's Ruinas Vivas de América (Living Ruins of America), a literary and philosophical exploration of the concept of ruins—archaeological, historical and natural—across the American continents, due to be published in Spanish by Anagrama.

Doreen Cunningham is picked for her forthcoming Virago memoir about learning from whales how to be a mother in a world in climate crisis, the effects of climate change on oceans, and climate justice for indigenous peoples. The author draws on a journey with her own child, following the grey whale's migration from Mexico to the Arctic, and her enduring relationship with an Iñupiat family.

Lina Meruane is selected for her novel Pie de Guerra (War Footing), which will expose the mutilation suffered by the Chilean veterans of the Pacific War, the dismemberment of their bodies and the suppression of their voices. The book is being published by Penguin Random House Chile.

Pola Oloixarac is shortlisted for Atlas Literario del Amazonas (Literary Atlas of the Amazon), a work of creative non-fiction revealing the secret history of the Amazon as a region of the world and its people, ideas and stories within it—many of which have remained unexplored. It is being published in Spanish by Penguin Random House.

J S Tennant is selected for Mrs Gargantua and the Idea of Cuba, a history of Cuba’s relationship with the US and other superpowers, contextualising the island within a web of power relations to show how it has long been miscast, by outsiders, as an imagined or fantastical space, as much as a real one. It is due to be published by William Collins.

Also in the running is Imaobong Umoren for Empire Without End: A New History of Britain and the Caribbean, forthcoming from Cape, a new history of the 400-year relationship between Britain and the Caribbean, arguing that the Caribbean was the birthplace of a racial caste system that shaped both nations, and continues to be influential today.

Catherine Eccles, chair of the judging panel and director of literary scouting agency Eccles Fisher Associates, said: “This year we received more submissions than ever before and it was a tough process whittling them down to the six exceptional shortlisted projects we have announced, which range across the American continent and the Caribbean. The judges were thrilled to see such vibrant creativity, original ideas and ambition, and look forward to seeing the finished books. This collaboration between the Eccles Centre at the British Library and Hay Festival gives authors the time, space and the curatorial support within the library’s American collections to write even better books—it’s a great honour to help make it happen.”

This is the second year the award has been run as a partnership between the Eccles Centre at the British Library and Hay Festival. The 2020 winners were the Mexican-born novelists Chloe Aridjis and Daniel Saldaña Paris. Each shortlisted writer for 2021 will be awarded £2,000, with two winners due to be announced in a digital event on 25th November.