Macfarlane, Shafak and Robinson make Ondaatje Prize shortlist

Macfarlane, Shafak and Robinson make Ondaatje Prize shortlist

Robert Macfarlane, Elif Shafak and Roger Robinson are among the writers shortlisted for this year's £10,000 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize.

The annual prize aims to reward fiction, non-fiction or poetry which best evokes the spirit of a place.

Macfarlane is nominated for Underland (Hamish Hamilton), which picked up the Wainwright nature writing prize last year. Judge Pascale Petit said: “These timely, subterranean journeys are astonishing, impassioned, lyrical. This is a landmark book, operatic and oceanic in scope.”

Shafak (pictured) appears on the shortlist for her Booker-nominated novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking), described by judges as “brutal” but also “deeply moving and uplifting”. Judge Evie Wyld said: “She is such a vivid writer and such a dexterous storyteller, she manages to go to places other writers plainly could not.”

Writer and educator Robinson's T S Eliot Prize-winning A Portable Paradise (Peepal Tree Press) also makes the shortlist. Chair of judges Peter Frankopan said: “A fabulous and ingenious work that seethes in its condemnation of injustices but sparkles in its tenderness and subtlety, and revels in celebration at the things that make us all unique. It made me laugh and cry.”

Also in the running is Jumoke Verissimo's debut A Small Silence (Cassava Republic). “The atmosphere of this book was the first thing that drew me in,” said Wyld. “A feeling of disquiet and tension, even in the quotidian. It manages beauty and lyricism and at the same time as restraint, an impressive line to walk. It left me feeling like I had witnessed a spell of some kind.”

There is also a nomination for poet Jay Bernard's “searing” debut collection Surge (Chatto & Windus), an enquiry into the 1981 New Cross Fire which killed 13 young black people. “Jay Bernard, one of our most exciting young poets, has created an artwork that is a book but also an immersive installation made of soot, smoke and shape-shifting mercury,” said Petit.

Tishani Doshi gest the nod for Small Days and Nights (Bloomsbury Circus), described by Frankopan as “an astonishing novel that is beautifully written but underpinned by a quiet simmering anger about injustice and unrealistic expectations of a family – and of life in contemporary India".

The winner of the prize will be announced on 4th May.