2023 Cundill History Prize Winner Announced
By Amy Joan Sayner and Georgia Appleyard
Tania Branigan, Foreign Leader Writer at The Guardian, has been awarded the Cundill History Prize for her book Red Memory: Living, Remembering, and Forgetting China’s Cultural Revolution.
The Cundill History Prize is a prestigious award that recognises outstanding history writing in English. It is open to authors of all nationalities as well as works translated into English. The $75,000 prize is the largest purse in nonfiction and is administered by McGill University in Montreal. The award honours founder F. Peter Cundill’s abiding passion for history, encouraging informed public debate through the wider dissemination of history writing to new audiences around the world. The winning book must embody historical scholarship, originality, literary quality, and broad appeal. This year, six distinguished jurors chose three finalists whose work spoke to distinct dimensions of today’s world. Finalists, Kate Cooper (Queens of a Fallen World: The Lost Women of Augustine’s Confessions) and James Morton Turner (Charged: A History of Batteries and Lessons for a Clean Energy Future) were each awarded $10,000 for their impressive work.
Tania Branigan’s debut novel Red Memory is a haunting and memorable excavation of how the Cultural Revolution is remembered by the people of China. Countless hours of interviews uncover forty years of silence through the rarely heard stories of individuals who lived through Mao’s decade of madness, and vivid descriptions convey the collective trauma that plagues Chinese society.
Red Memory was chosen to win as it embodies the Cundill History Prize’s aims: an outstanding achievement in historical scholarship that engages the reader and demonstrates the real importance of history writing for understanding our world. Chair of the Jury, Philippa Levine said: “Tania Branigan’s sensitive study of the impact of the Cultural Revolution on the lives and psyches of an entire generation in China affected every juror, as it will every reader. All of us found ourselves unable to stop thinking about this extraordinary book. All of us were deeply moved by the trauma she so vividly describes and by the skills on which she drew in doing so. This is a must-read.”
As well as winning this year’s Cundill History Prize, Branigan has also been shortlisted for The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction and The British Academy Prize for Non-Fiction.
Red Memory is published by Faber & Faber (UK) and is available for purchase at major bookstores, as well as for eReader and in audio.