The 20-book longlist for this year’s £10,000 Royal Society of Literature (RSL) Ondaatje Prize has been revealed.
Now running for 15 years, the prize is awarded to a book of fiction, non-fiction or poetry judged to have best evoked “the spirit of a place”. The 2019 list includes two Picador titles, The Crossway by Guy Stagg and Wilding by Isabella Tree, while authors published through small presses including Comma Poetry, Aardvark Bureau and Fitzcarraldo Editions are all in with a shout.
Rania Abouzeid makes the longlist with her exploration of the Syrian conflict No Turning Back (Oneworld) alongside post-Brexit novel Perfidious Albion by Sam Byers (Faber), Madame Tussaud-inspired Little by Edward Carey (Aardvark Bureau) and Jonathan Coe's latest novel Middle England (Viking).
Ethipoian-set The Wife’s Tale by Aida Edemariam (4th Estate), Aminatta Forna's Happiness (Bloomsbury Circus) and poetry collection Where the road runs out by Gaia Holmes (Comma Poetry) have also been recognised alongside South African-set The Café de Move-on Blues by Christopher Hope (Atlantic Books) and Emmanuel Iduma's blend of travelogue and poetry A Stranger’s Pose (Cassava Republic).
Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile by Alice Jolly (Unbound), which has also been nominated for the Walter Scott Prize and Rathbones Folio prize, the dystopian Arkady by Patrick Langley (Fitzcarraldo Editions) and travelogue and memoir A Line in the River by Jamal Mahjoub (Bloomsbury Publishing) are on the longlist with Sarah Moss's sixth novel Ghost Wall (Granta Books), S.K. Perry's debut Let Me Be Like Water (Melville House UK) and the Man Booker Prize-longlisted From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan (Doubleday).
Heidi Sopinka has been nominated for interwar novel The Dictionary of Animal Languages (Scribe UK) with adventure travel book Kings of the Yukon by Adam Weymouth (Particular Books) and Malachy Tallack's novel The Valley at the Centre of the World (Canongate) rounding off the list.
The shortlist will be announced on 16th April at the British Library. This year’s judges are poet Sabrina Mahfouz, novelist Michèle Roberts and writer Ian Thomson.
Last year’s prize was won by Pascale Petit for her poetry collection Mama Amazonica (Bloodaxe Books), set at a psychiatric ward in the Amazon rainforest.