The Ondaatje Prize of the Royal Society of Literature (RSL), an annual award of £10,000 for an outstanding work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry that best evokes “the spirit of a place”, was awarded last night to the poet Anthony Anaxagorou for Heritage Aesthetics, a collection that draws on his family’s history of migration between Cyprus and the United Kingdom.
Samira Ahmed, chair of the judges, said: “Anthony’s poetry is beautiful, but does not sugarcoat. The arsenic of historical imperial arrogance permeates the Britain he explores in his writing. And the joy of this collection comes from his strength, knowledge, maturity, but also from deeply felt love.”
Anaxagorou said he had a vision for the book of “trying to bring Cyprus and the UK together. Cyprus has always been very peripheral when it comes to colonial history — it was only made independent in 1960, very late on within Britain’s project to decolonialise (although there are two British Army bases still there). I hope by having the book seen in this way it will bring more readers to Cyprus and to the UK.”