THE WILLIAM HAZLITT INAUGURAL ESSAY PRIZE 2013
Influential Canadian author, academic and politician Michael Ignatieff is announced as the winner of Notting Hill Editions William Hazlitt Essay Prize 2013. His essay, Raphael Lemkin and Genocide gives recognition to an almost forgotten figure of one of the most documented times of recent history. At a ceremony in Soho last night, 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 are 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 will be published by Notting Hill Editions in an exquisite, clothbound hardback edition, available from today. The judging panel was chaired by author and journalist Harry Mount, and comprised the Daily Telegraph Head of Books Gaby Wood, novelist and critic Adam Mars-Jones, prize-winning author Lady Antonia Fraser and award winning writer David Shields.
THE WINNING ESSAY
Raphael Lemkin and Genocide by Michael Ignatieff gives recognition to an almost forgotten figure of one of the most documented times of recent history. Raphael Lemkin narrowly escaped Treblinka, unlike forty nine members of his family. Once in Washington he published a study on Hitler’s rule and campaigned tirelessly until the UN approved the Genocide Convention. Lemkin coined the term Genocide but died before anyone was ever convicted of the crime he named. This thorough essay by Ignatieff delves into the all- consuming fight for recognition by a victim who refused to be victimised, one who “changed the moral climate of their times by obsessional devotion to a private cause.” Michael Ignatieff teaches human rights and politics at the Kennedy School of Government,
Harvard University and at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. He is the former leader of the Liberal Party of
Canada and the author of 15 works of fiction and non-fiction. His latest book is Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics.
THE FIVE RUNNERS UP
Light Entertainment by Andrew O’Hagan As Operation Yewtree unearths ever more media personalities and subjects them to the harsh light of reality O’Hagan’s pensive view of the unfolding affair is a timely revelation. In his essay, Light Entertainment, O’Hagan probes the bedrock of our cultural shame and holds a mirror to society, asking us to examine who laid the foundations to support such an open secret. Andrew O'Hagan was born in Glasgow in 1968. He wrote The Missing and four novels, two of which were nominated for the Booker Prize, as well as a book of essays, The Atlantic Ocean. He writes for the London Review of Books and the New York Times.
Politics 2013 by JT Barbarese In small town America a dichotomy is brewing. In communities of Catholics abortion is rife and condemned, the educated are envied and disdained, Democratic lives are led by ardent Republicans. Politics 2013 is a brooding piece by academic JT Barbarese illustrating in artful and bare prose the political apathy in the US today. J.T. Barbarese has published five books of poetry and a translation of Euripides’ Children of Herakles (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999). His poetry and translations have appeared in many journals and magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, The New Yorker and The Times Literary Supplement; his fiction in Boulevard, NAR, and, prior to becoming its editor in 2008, in StoryQuarterly; and his literary journalism in Poetry, The Sewanee Review, The New York Times, and The Columbia History of American Poetry. He is presently Senior Editor of StoryQuarterly.
The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs Belle Boggs takes her readers on a bittersweet elliptical journey from cicadas, to humans, to monkeys and back again in her essay The Art of Waiting. This piece is an honest confrontation with what it means to be an infertile woman today, interspersed with and enhanced by zoological studies of reproductive behaviour in the animal kingdom. Ultimately Boggs’ essay is one of hope and optimism in the face of disappointed expectations. Belle Boggs is the author of Mattaponi Queen, a collection of linked stories, and the forthcoming novel The Ugly Bear List, both from Graywolf Press. Mattaponi Queen won the Bakeless Prize and the Emyl Jenkins Sexton Literary Award from the Library of Virginia, and was shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her work has appeared in Orion, Harper's, The Paris Review, Slate, the Sun, and The New New South, among other publications.
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison The ability to empathise can be taught by Medical Actors, men and women, like Leslie Jamison, who are paid to simulate pain. If the student displays understanding their reward is a good score and a new actor to diagnose, taking them a step closer to qualification. The Empathy Exams deftly highlights the chasm between learning empathy through a stylised script and the painful route of true experience that teaches you that to give and receive understanding is the only way to heal hidden wounds. “Empathy means realizing no trauma has discrete edges. Trauma bleeds. Out of wounds and across boundaries.” Leslie Jamison was born in Washington DC and raised in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her work has
appeared or is forthcoming in publications including Harper's, the New York Times, The Believer, and Oxford American. Her first novel, The
Gin Closet, was a finalist for the LA Times First Fiction Award, and her second book, a collection of essays called The Empathy Exams, won the
Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and will be published by Graywolf and Granta UK in 2014.
The Shadow of the Scroll: Reconstructing Islam’s Origins by Sameer Rahim In this considered essay Sameer Rahim tells the story of the birth of Islam and the controversy that surrounds this history. Moving from etymological arguments that cast doubt on when the Qu’ran was written to the dearth of archaeological evidence for Muhammad’s Mecca The Shadow of the Scroll explores the traditions and the theories with academic rigour and respect. The argument Rahim puts forth with elegant eloquence is that to understand anything you must not be afraid to take it apart and examine the pieces. Sameer Rahim is Assistant Books Editor at the Telegraph.
About The William Hazlitt Essay Prize
In May of this year, Notting Hill Editions announced an annual 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. If already published, the essay must have appeared for the first time in periodical (print or online) rather than book form, between 1 January
2012 and 31 July 2013. Submissions (one entry per author) may be made by author, publication or agent. Further information about the prize can be found at: www.nottinghilleditions.com/essay-prize