The Rathbones Folio Prize 2023 has been awarded to three powerhouse writers this year for their “thrilling” and quiet genius. Margo Jefferson, Michelle de Kretser and Victoria Adukwei Bulley were handed prizes for nonfiction, fiction and poetry. This year’s event took place at the British Library in London, where a number of star-studded judges, including Baileys Prize winner and The Accidental author Ali Smith, Red Dust Road writer Jackie Kay, and International Dylan Thomas Prize winner Guy Gunaratne took part.
The annual literary award is given for the best new work of literature published in English in the UK. The prize was founded in 2014 by The Folio Society and is now sponsored by Rathbone Investment Management. The winner receives £30,000. The Rathbones Folio Prize is open to all genres and forms of literature, including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. The only stipulation is that the work must be published in the UK in the previous calendar year.
The prize is judged by a panel of writers and critics, who are members of the Rathbones Folio Academy. The Academy is a group of over 300 esteemed writers and critics, who are dedicated to promoting literature and reading.
It is a prestigious award, and it has been won by some of the most celebrated writers in the UK. Past winners include Colm Tóibín, George Saunders, and Akhil Sharma. It also gives the opportunity for writers to be recognised for their work. Not to mention it is also a great way for readers to discover new and exciting literature.
Who won the Rathbones Folio Prize 2023?
Margo Jefferson won book of the year at the Rathbones Folio Prize for Constructing a Nervous System, published by Granta Books. The judges said it was “a book unlike any other; thrilling, generous, spirited and surprising”. It also won the nonfiction gong of the night.
While Victoria Adukwei Bulley won the poetry prize for Quiet. The judges said: “a quiet revolution of a book – subtle, supple and serious, these poems look for a language that can be shared”.
At the same time, the winner of the fiction category is Michelle de Kretser for Scary Monsters, published by Allen and Unwin. Similarly, the judges said: “A work of beautifully composed genius; two consonant stories work to disorient and entangle, disarm and fascinate”.
What the authors said:
Asked by Guy Gunaratne how he managed to get over 150 interviews for his book, The Passengers author Will Ashon said: “My only theory is that I went into the process that I am not a journalist, I was going to believe what they were going to say. I wonder if that communicated that to people […] or blind luck”.
While Poverty Safari and The Social Distance Between US author Darren McGarvey talked about how Britain has ended up where it has with Ali Smith. He said: “Austerity conditioned us to what would happen in Britain for a while. There’s a culture in the Department for Work and Pensions that enough contempt can incentivise people to do the worst jobs. It’s a whole system based on prejudice.”
Similarly, Manorisms poet Yomi Sode said: “There’s something about going on a stage with an audience who are predominantly white. There are people capitalising on my experience, I’m speaking and there’s fear in this experience. I work with a lot of hope and fear and I never feel relaxed.”
The Rathbones Folio Prize shortlist included:
- The Passengers by Will Ashon
- In Love by Amy Bloom
- The Escape Artist by Jonathan Freedland
- Constructing a Nervous System by Margo Jefferson
- The Social Distance Between Us by Darren McGarvey
- Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo
- Scary Monsters by Michelle de Kretser
- Pure Colour by Sheila Heti
- Emergency by Daisy Hildyard
- Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout – check out the live book event with Elizabeth Strout:
- Quiet by Victoria Adukwei Bulley
- Ephemeron by Fiona Benson
- Cane, Corn & Gully by Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa
- England’s Green by Zaffar Kunial
- Manorism by Yomi Ṣode
Here is a list of the previous winners of the Rathbones Folio Prize:
- 2014: Tenth of December by George Saunders
- 2015: Family Life by Akhil Sharma
- 2017: The Return by Hisham Matar
- 2018: Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry
- 2019: The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus
- 2020: Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
- 2021: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
- 2022: The Magician by Colm Tóibín
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