Peter Pomerantsev’s chronicle of the simulation and cynicism of Putin’s Russia, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible (Faber), had been short-listed for several prizes since its publication last year, including the Guardian First Book Award and the Gordon Burn Prize. Last night it finally won him an award: the £10,000 RSL Ondaatje Prize, for a work “evoking the spirit of a place”.
The writer and critic Mark Lawson, who was one of the judges (with the journalist Kate Adie and the poet Moniza Alvi), said the book “was a sort of anti-travelogue, making the reader desperately keen never to go near the places described”. It was “funny, frightening, exhilarating”.
Pomerantsev said the Russia he described had already disappeared: “There’s something much nastier now, less magical-realist.” He had been driven, he said, by an urgent need to describe what was happening in the capital and the country, which wasn’t being done justice by any of the journalism he read. “I had to capture and make sense of this world before it disappeared.”