THE WILLIAM HAZLITT ESSAY PRIZE
In May 2013, Notting Hill Editions announced a literary prize for the best essay in the English language, open to anyone in the world, of between 2,000 and 8,000 words, published or unpublished, on any subject. The award is named in honour of William Hazlitt (1778-1830), great master of the miscellaneous essay.
Authors of any nationality are eligible, but submissions must have been written originally in English.
The 2013 Winner was influential Canadian author, academic and politician Michael Ignatieff. His essay, Raphael Lemkin and Genocide gives recognition to an almost forgotten figure of one of the most documented times of recent history. Chair of judges Harry Mount said, ‘Michael Ignatieff's moving essay restores Raphael Lemkin's status as the man who invented the term 'genocide' and was largely responsible for the UN Convention on Genocide. The essay is a rare, deftly-written combination of well-researched biography, political history and original argument.’
Commenting on the winning essay, Judge Adam Mars-Jones added, ‘The best of the literary-critical essays, it opened up the subject and scrutinised it with some fierceness, widening the context without ever losing sight of its original remit. The suggestion about moral extremes and the aesthetic sense seemed to me powerful and unfamiliar, the borrowing of Kafka's "hunger artist" rewarding’.
Michael Ignatieff described the essay as ‘that wonderful form invented by Montaigne that endures today even in a 140 character Twitter universe because as William Hazlitt said so well, it “ shows us what we are, and what we are not.”’ Ignatieff also commented, ‘Raphael Lemkin, the subject of my essay, was the Polish refugee who in 1943 coined the term genocide to describe the crime that wiped out his entire family. He died unknown and forgotten on a New York street in 1959, yet if we have a Genocide Convention it is because of him. Here’s to refugees, may they always have a home with us.’
The essays were judged on the originality of the ideas, the quality of the prose and the ability to communicate to a wide audience. Selected from a shortlist of 13 essays, the five runners up were Scottish Man Booker Prize shortlisted author, Andrew O’Hagan, American poet and critic J.T. Barbarese, award winning short story author and novelist Belle Boggs, American debut novelist Leslie Jamison and Daily Telegraph assistant books editor Sameer Rahim. The essays examine a wide range of subjects; Operation Yewtree, political apathy in the US, female infertility, the ability to empathise and the birth of Islam.
The winning essay was awarded £15,000 and the five runners-up each received £1000.
All six essays are published by Notting Hill Editions in an exquisite, clothbound hardback edition, available here http://www.nottinghilleditions.com/books/william-hazlitt-essay-prize-2013-the-winners/208