Justin Marozzi wins RSL Ondaajte Prize

We are absolutely delighted that Justin Marozzi won the 2015 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize for his superb BAGHDAD: City of Peace, City of Blood.

Justin’s history of Baghdad ranges from its 15th-century sacking by Tamerlane to the invasion by American troops in 2003 was praised by judges as a “truly monumental achievement”.

The Royal Society of Literature’s £10,000 Ondaatje prize goes to the book – fiction, non-fiction or poetry – that best evokes the “spirit of a place”. The former foreign correspondent beat titles by authors including Elif Shafak, Helen Dunmore and Rana Dasgupta. The judges said…

Tash Aw: “BAGHDAD is at once a grand historical narrative and a personal homage to a beloved city. The weight of Marozzi’s scholarship is interlaced with a storyteller’s instinct for all that is intimate, unusual and moving, and the result is a book that is a constant revelation, peeling back the layers of this fascinating city on every page. Beautiful and disquieting, it is a truly monumental achievement.”

Jonathan Keates: “Justin Marozzi’s BAGHDAD is always more than just the history of a city. It demonstrates superbly how the spirit of place can be shaped by human aspiration and imagination, in its account of the making of the medieval City Of Peace, paradise of poets, singers and storytellers in the days of Caliph Harun al-Rashid. Simultaneously Baghdad became the realm of fearless seekers after truth in the fields of science, medicine and technology. Marozzi shows how the city’s indomitable vitality refused to die even when Mongol hordes slaughtered 80,000 inhabitants and the whole wondrous assembly of mosques, palaces and bazaars went up in smoke. Baghdad’s obstinate will to live has carried it through the years of Ottoman and British occupation, through the eye-popping tyranny of Saddam Hussein and further near-annihilation during the 2003 ‘War On Terror’ by America’s ‘Coalition Of The Willing’. Justin Marozzi brilliantly interweaves character, anecdote and a fine sense of history’s greater and lesser ironies to fashion the compelling narrative.”

Fiona Sampson: “BAGHDAD is moving, passionate and erudite about the repeated tragedy, and the recurring renaissance, that mark the city. In elegant, unfussy prose, Marozzi manages to be both compendious and full of illuminating detail, both authoritative and evocative. It is hard to imagine this study of a city could be bettered.”

Congratulations, Justin!

For more information about the award, visit the RSL website http://rsliterature.org/award/rsl-ondaatje-prize/