Oloixarac and Umoren win Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award

Oloixarac and Umoren win Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award

Novelist Pola Oloixarac and historian Imaobong Umoren (pictured) have been named as the 2021 winners of the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award.

Both writers are awarded £20,000 each and a year’s residency with the British Library to develop their forthcoming books, with the opportunity to present their published work at future Hay Festival events in the UK and Latin America.

The annual award supports writers in the creative stages of a new project relating to North, Central, South America and the Caribbean, and due for publication in English, Spanish or any language indigenous to the Americas.

Umoren is assistant professor of international history at the London School of Economics & Political Science, where she teaches Caribbean history.  She is selected for her forthcoming book Empire Without End: A New History of Britain and the Caribbean, an expansive new history of the 400-year relationship between Britain and the Caribbean, which will argue that the Caribbean was the birthplace of a racial caste system that shaped both nations and continues to be influential today. Empire Without End will be published by Jonathan Cape in spring 2023.

The judging panel said: “Imaobong Umoren’s submission bursts myths that the British Empire is over and considers whether Britain will ever atone for colonialism and neo-colonialism. This is a work of great scope and ambition, weaving together the history and politics of the past and present, while also considering the future. We cannot imagine a better moment for this book to be written.”

Oloixarac is an Argentinian novelist and author of the opera libretto “Hercules in Mato Grosso” whose work has been translated into nine languages. Oloixarac wins the Writer’s Award for her first work of non-fiction, to be published by Penguin Random House. Atlas Literario del Amazonas (Literary Atlas of the Amazon) ­will reveal the secret history of the Amazon as a region of the world and the people, ideas and stories within it that have remained unexplored.

The judging panel commented: “Pola Oloixarac's proposal of a literary atlas of the Amazon is truly captivating and ambitious. The atlas is envisaged as an encyclopaedia where each entry will invite us on a journey to show the complexity of the transcendent landscape of Amazonian communities, and to link it to the stories of the present, the past and the future. A project like this will enormously benefit from up-close access to the British Library’s vast Americas collection.”

This year's winners were selected from a six-strong shortlist of writers from across Europe and Latin America, whittled down from a record number of submissions.

The 2021 judging panel comprised Mercedes Aguirre, lead curator of American collections at the British Library; Catherine Eccles, director of literary scouting agency Eccles Fisher Associates; Cristina Fuentes La Roche, international director at Hay Festival; Cara Rodway, acting head of the Eccles Centre at the British Library; and Erica Wagner, the 2014 Writer’s Award winner.