One of the purposes of Deskbound Traveller is to seek out great writing about travel and place not just in “the travel pages” but wherever it appears. That’s why I’m so keen on the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize: £10,000 for “a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry evoking the spirit of a place”.
The judges for the 2015 prize – Tash Aw, Jonathan Keates and Fiona Sampson – are currently deliberating over which six titles will form their short list (and when they do, early in May, extracts will appear in Telegraph Travel). While we’re waiting for that, I’ve got a prize of my own to offer, courtesy of the RSL: a package of the books that were shortlisted last year.
The winner was This Boy, a memoir by Alan Johnson, the former Labour Home Secretary, of growing up in poverty in post-war London. The other books (with the judges’ summaries) were:
The Blind Man’s Garden by Nadeem Aslam (Faber)
Set in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the months following 9/11, this novel brings home the complexities of life and belief on the frontiers, reminding us that the essence of a place can be one of conflict rather than harmony, almost impossible to resolve.
Badgerlands by Patrick Barkham (Granta)
A lyrical, deep and humane investigation of our relationship with one of the British countryside’s more controversial animals.
Spirit House by Mark Dapin (Tuskar Rock Press)
A compassionate, subtle and darkly humorous novel about a complex subject – it deals with male psychology and the architecture of historical wounds terrifically well.
Four Fields by Tim Dee (Vintage)
The seemingly restrictive framework of four fields is used to throw open a wide-ranging meditation on the world and how we live in it. There are moments of horror, beauty and sheer poetry.
Field Notes From a Hidden City by Esther Woolfson (Granta)
Aberdeen has never seemed so rich in wildlife as it does in this book, which follows the rhythm of a year, moving from loving observation of local dunes, streets, woods and gardens out to wider considerations of the universe, and our attitudes to the natural world.
To be in with a chance of winning the six books, just “like” and share the competition post on Deskbound Traveller’s Facebook page.
Terms and conditions
Entrants must “like” and share the competition post by midnight on April 10. Only one copy of each of the six short-listed titles is available to the winner, who must be resident in the United Kingdom. The winner will be selected at random and notified by April 17. Unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted. For more information about the Ondaatje Prize, please see the Royal Society of Literature’s website.