THE 2023 ORWELL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL WRITING
Martha Lane Fox, chair of this year's judging panel, talks us through the nine finalists for the 2023 Orwell Prize for Political Writing, awarded annually for a nonfiction book.
Q. Readers outside the UK might not be familiar with the Orwell Prizes. Could you tell me what kind of books you were looking for and that the Orwell Prize for Political Writing is trying to single out?
Martha Lane Fox: I’m sure everybody has their own sense of George Orwell as a person, but for us as a set of judges, we're looking for three major things. The first is great writing. It sounds obvious, but this is a writing prize so you’re looking for clear writing and great storytelling. George Orwell wrote many essays about writing itself and, for me, it was very important that we found books that were very well written.
The second is subject matter that reveals truth. We wanted stories and insights with a political bent, that reveal things about us as a country or as a world. We wanted books that help us understand stories and ideas that are not necessarily about the most well-known subjects, although we ended up with some that are. But always we were looking for books that show a depth or urgency in a story that perhaps we hadn't appreciated before.
The final thing, I think, is an element of bravery in the storytelling, of not being afraid of either vested interests or the establishment or of telling something difficult. It’s about following George Orwell’s deep commitment to revealing inequalities and always acting with bravery and truth.
So those were the three things—great writing, revealing something we perhaps hadn't understood or seen before with incredibly detailed research, and then, finally, an element of bravery: