Orwell Prize 2022 Winners Announced
By Caitlin Evans, Paridhi Badgotri, Thomas Caldow and Gabriella Sotiriou
George Orwell’s literary legacy is one of prestige in two realms; politics and art. This is what the Orwell Prize aims to celebrate through their annual awards, as they declare recognition for literature that honours the work of their namesake. Founded in 1994, the Orwell Prizes have grown to become a highly sought-after award among political writers. This year’s Orwell Prize 2022 winners have now been announced and will each be receiving a prize of £3,000.
The prize is divided into four categories: The Orwell Prize for Political Writing, The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, The Orwell Prize for Journalism, and The Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils. Each category has its own specially curated panel of judges, appointed afresh every year. Despite their nuances, all four judging panels have one aim – to select the writing that best meets “the spirit of George Orwell’s own ambition to make political writing into an art.”
Political Fiction: Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (Faber & Faber)
Claire Keegan’s short novel, Small Things Like These, centres on coal merchant Bill Furlong and his family during the Christmas period of 1985. The setting is the town of New Ross in County Wexford. Furlong is a character that is pure of heart and Keegan’s descriptions show him to be encouraging and caring towards his five daughters. The family is happy and content. The tension of the tale arrives in the form of a discovery at the nearby convent which is home to women who are deemed “fallen.” The rest of the novel is fuelled by Furlong’s actions upon uncovering the true horrors of Ireland’s Catholic run asylums known as “Magdalene Laundries.” Tied in with this is Bill’s exploration of his childhood and his search for life’s meaning, giving the story a fable like feel. Keegan’s feminist reimagining of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is hugely impactful despite its short length and displays wonderful sentimentality and tenderness.
Political Writing: My Fourth Time, We Drowned by Sally Hayden (HarperCollins)
Sally Hayden’s My Fourth Time, We Drowned exposes the West’s hand in the state-sponsored violence in Libya. Her book delves through multiple social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, through which she got into contact with refugees who are seeking asylum. The stories of these refugees across North Africa highlights instances of sexual abuse, enslavements, torture and murders. According to Hayden, such a horrendous migrant crisis is a consequence of European policies. She depicts the United Nations corrupt agendas and EU’s economics of slave trade and bankrolling of Libyan militias. She examines Europe’s negligence of handling the crisis that they had fuelled. Furthermore, she asks the questions of why the stories of these refugees are left unreported and why nobody is trying to find solutions. In the end, the book unravels the stories of refugees who have been ignored by the world and their efforts in making themselves heard through a system which has tried to silence them.
Journalism: George Monbiot (The Guardian)
The Prize for Journalism is awarded for sustained reporting, George Monbiot’s coverage of the climate crisis has certainly been that. With relentless energy he has shone a light on the greatest danger our society has ever faced, examining not only the science, but the systems perpetuating these problems. His article Watching Don’t Look Up made me see my whole life of campaigning flash before me (one of four shortlisted articles, all written for The Guardian) questions the motives of media companies and their commitment to ignoring the frightening environmental trends we are bearing witness to worldwide. Orwell made his anger at the manipulation and denial of truth clear, most famously in his novels Animal Farm and 1984, and Monbiot does the same, reporting on a world which is eerily similar to the ones Orwell imagined. Monbiot’s fiery, provocative, and deeply human writing is essential reading for anyone looking to understand our world and a deserving winner of this year’s prize.
Exposing Britain’s Social Evils: The Cost of Covid: Burnley Crisis by Ed Thomas (BBC News)
Exposing Britain’s Social Evils is a prize category aimed at pieces of journalism that delve into the political state of Great Britain and exposes the cracks in our society. This year, the prize is awarded to Ed Thomas, a Special Correspondent at BBC News whose work focuses on the struggles of modern Britain. The Cost of Covid: A Year on the Frontline was a piece that Ed Thomas has worked on for the past year along with picture correspondent Phill Edwards. They spent their time in Burnley, one of the poorest towns in England, getting first-hand witness of the impact of the pandemic. The exposé comes at a time when the cost-of-living crisis continues to increase, proving the poignancy of reports such as these that speak on the experience of those suffering the hardest. The Orwell Prize thus deemed this a piece of work that Orwell himself would have championed, as it calls for radical change and the improvement of the quality of life.