Justin Marozzi has won the £10,000 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize for 2015.
The Allen Lane author won for his title Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood, which is a historical portrait of the ancient city of Baghdad -the first published in English in nearly 80 years.
Judge Tash Aw said of the book: "Baghdad is at once a grand historical narrative and a personal homage to a beloved city. The weight of Marozzi’s scholarship is interlaced with a storyteller’s instinct for all that is intimate, unusual and moving, and the result is a book that is a constant revelation, peeling back the layers of this fascinating city on every page. Beautiful and disquieting, it is a truly monumental achievement.’
Marozzi is a former foreign correspondent who has spent much of the past decade living and working in Iraq, with long assignments in Afghanistan, Darfur and Somalia.
The RSL Ondaatje Prize is awarded annually to a book of the highest literary merit – fiction, non-fiction or poetry – evoking the spirit of a place.
Marozzi beat off competition from five other shortlisted authors; Rana Dasgupta for Capital (Canongate), Helen Dunmore for The Lie (Hutchinson), Tobias Hill for What Was Promised (Bloomsbury Circus), Sigrid Rausing for Everything is Wonderful (Grove Press) and Elif Shafak’s The Architect’s Apprentice (Viking).
Joining Tash Aw in judging the prize were Jonathan Keates and Fiona Sampson. They have previously said that all the shortlisted titles “display an ambition rarely seen elsewhere.”