Former soldier wins Bodley Head/FT competition

Former soldier wins Bodley Head/FT competition

An essay by a former British soldier has won a competition run by The Bodley Head and the Financial Times.

Penguin Random House UK c.e.o. Tom Weldon was among the judges who awarded victory to 35-year-old Adnan Sarwar’s essay "British Muslim Soldier", described as “a meditation on identity, dealing with why he, a Pakistani boy from Burnley with no degree, decided to join the British army”.

Stuart Williams, publishing director at Random House imprint The Bodley Head and another of the competition’s judges, said: “This was a bumper crop of essays, even stronger than last year’s, and proof that the essay is in rude health.

“They came from all over the world and cover a world of subjects – urgently, amusingly, inventively and expertly.

“We have a blistering winner that asks searching questions about cultural identity in an unforgettable voice and two outstanding runners-up.”

Historian and FT contributor Simon Schama; Dan Franklin, digital publisher at Random House Group; and Lucy Tuck, editor of FT "Life & Arts", were also on the judging panel, chaired by FT "Weekend" editor Caroline Daniel.

Sarwar has won £1,000, and publication of his work both in the Financial Times "Life & Arts" section tomorrow (11th January), and as a free digital short with The Bodley Head. Sarwar will also receive a mentoring session with The Bodley Head and FT editors.

Daniel said: “The Bodley Head/FT Essay Prize is a truly global competition with entries from Bangalore to Surrey. In an age remorselessly defined by Twitter, it was a relief - more importantly - a pleasure - to see so many young writers embracing the long-form essay. We look forward to bringing some of these new voices to our FT 'Weekend' readers. Sarwar was a worthy winner.”

Runner-up Alexandra Zelman-Doring, 28, from New York, and Nina Lyon, 32, from London, win £500 each and will see their essays published as The Bodley Head free digital shorts on 30th January.