Peter Pomerantsev's study of disinformation, This Is Not Propaganda (Faber), has won the Gordon Burn Prize 2020.
The announcement was made on 15th October in a digital event streamed as part of Durham Book Festival, a Durham County Council event.
Pomerantsev, who wins £5,000, was praised for his “compelling, insightful and disturbing book about our ever-shifting world”. The book mixes case studies, analysis and family history to look at the origins and spiralling problems of the disinformation age.
The author is a senior fellow at the Institute of Global Affairs at London School of Economics, studying 21st-century information manipulation and how to fix it. His book Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible (Faber) won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize 2016 and was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize 2015.
On receiving the prize, he thanked his parents, whose story is at the heart of the book. He said: “I recommend it to anybody who has the chance to go and interview your parents. As I interviewed mine, as I sat with them for a long time, they suddenly became people to me and at the age of 43 I realised that parents are actually people with their own life stories.”
Judge Richard T Kelly said: "In This Is Not Propaganda Peter Pomerantsev trains a properly keen writer’s eye on some of the burning themes of our age, and in the style of genuinely creative non-fiction, telling true stories with artistry – as was Gordon Burn’s special gift. Readers can trust Pomerantsev to dig out the truthful account that lies deeper than the hot takes and conspiracy theories we’re otherwise bedevilled by. We’re all going to benefit by hearing more of his trenchant voice in the times ahead."
This year's shortlist featured Jenn Ashworth's Notes Made While Falling (Goldsmiths Press), Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez (Dialogue), Deborah Orr's Motherwell (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), Lemn Sissay's My Name Is Why (Canongate) and Lisa Taddeo's Three Women (Bloomsbury).
The Gordon Burn Prize was founded in 2012 and is run in partnership by the Gordon Burn Trust, New Writing North, Faber & Faber and Durham Book Festival. The prize seeks to celebrate those who follow in the footsteps of the groundbreaking author Gordon Burn, who died in 2009.
Alongside the prize money, Pomerantsev also receives the opportunity to take a writing retreat at Gordon Burn’s cottage in the Scottish Borders.