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The RSL Ondaatje Prize - winner announced

29 May 2012

The Royal Society of Literature has announced the winner of the 2012 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize.

Rahul Bhattacharya has won the £10,000 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize with his first novel The Sly Company of People Who Care (Picador).

The 2012 judges Nick Laird, Michèle Roberts and Kamila Shamsie admired ‘Bhattacharya’s verve and style as he brilliantly evokes the history and inhabitants and landscape of Guyana’.

Nick Laird said he had ‘seldom read a book with so much energy, and on almost every page there were little stylistic twists or felicities which had me stopping to admire them. The novel is a testament both to his potential and to his achievement.’

Michèle Roberts praised ‘one of the most exhilarating novels I have read for years. This picaresque story, funny, tough and romantic, swerves around all kinds of inner and outer landscapes and offers unforgettable vignettes of a host of characters. He has invented a beautiful and original language, mixing street poetry and sharply sensual poetry.’

Kamila Shamsie commended ‘The combination of Bhattacharya’s prose style, his great curiosity and generous-though-not-uncritical eye, the light touch with which he conveys knowledge, and the sheer pleasure of his company.’

Rahul Bhattacharya lives in Delhi and is the author of the cricket tour book Pundits from Pakistan, fourth in The Wisden Cricketers’ list of best cricket books of all time, and winner of the Crossword Award for most popular book, 2005. The Sly Company of People Who Care was also the winner of the Hindu Literary Prize 2011 and was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2011.

The shortlist also included:

  • Julia Blackburn Thin Paths (Cape) ‘An engrossing, almost obsessive engagement with the history of an Italian mountain village from the Second World War to the present day.’
  • Teju Cole Open City (Faber) ‘Open City captures wonderfully the fecundity and strangeness of the modern metropolis. Nothing escapes the author’s eye and the book… is wise and also moving.’
  • Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts Edgelands (Cape) ‘Wandering around forgotten and under-valued places, these poets illuminate bleak landscapes and turn them into precious spaces for meditation.’
  • Olivia Laing To the River (Canongate) ‘Rich in description and allusion, pulled along by the currents of history and literature to often fascinating effect.’
  • Tim Robinson Connemara (Penguin Ireland) ‘Magisterial – the range and depth of his knowledge about this part of the world is astonishing.’
 

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