The Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize 2012

Rahul Bhattacharya wins the £10,000 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize with his first novel The Sly Company of People Who Care (Picador)

2012 judges Nick Laird, Michèle Roberts and Kamila Shamsie admired ‘Bhattacharya’s verve and style as he brilliantly evokes the history and inhabitants and landscape of Guyana’.

Nick Laird said he had ‘seldom read a book with so much energy, and on almost every page there were little stylistic twists or felicities which had me stopping to admire them. The novel is a testament both to his potential and to his achievement.’

Michèle Roberts praised ‘one of the most exhilarating novels I have read for years. This picaresque story, funny, tough and romantic, swerves around all kinds of inner and outer landscapes and offers unforgettable vignettes of a host of characters. He has invented a beautiful and original language, mixing street poetry and sharply sensual poetry.’

Kamila Shamsie commended ‘The combination of Bhattacharya’s prose style, his great curiosity and generous-though-not-uncritical eye, the light touch with which he conveys knowledge, and the sheer pleasure of his company.’

Rahul Bhattacharya lives in Delhi and is the author of the cricket tour book Pundits from Pakistan, fourth in The Wisden Cricketers’ list of best cricket books of all time, and winner of the Crossword Award for most popular book, 2005. The Sly Company of People Who Care was also the winner of the Hindu Literary Prize 2011 and was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2011.

Judges Nick Laird,Michèle Roberts and Kamila Shamsie commented: ‘It’s been a pleasure to read through so many books which don’t merely use place as a backdrop but as something to be conjured up by the act of writing.’


Julia Blackburn Thin Paths (Cape)
‘Gorgeously textured observations about the outer landscapes of an Italian vil- lage and the inner landscapes of those who inhabit it’…‘It is a monument to memory and an examination of ageing.’

Teju Cole Open City (Faber)
‘Remarkable for its Sebaldian rhythms and inclusiveness,it wonderfully captures the fecundity and strangeness of the modern metropolis.Nothing escapes the au- thor’s eye and the book,which demonstrates a formidable intellect,is finally wise and also moving.’

Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts Edgelands (Cape)
‘A treat:both intelligent and funny… the attention and grace of
the poets is everywhere in evidence.’‘Wandering around the forgotten and under-valued spaces of the environment,these poets illuminate bleak landscapes and turn them into precious spaces for meditation.’

Olivia Laing To the River (Canongate)
‘Laing walked the length of the Ouse for five days, and her resulting meditation on the river is a considered,clever piece of work.’‘Rich in description and allusion,pulled along by the currents of history and literature to often fascinating effect.’‘Her narrative voice is a delight.’

Tim Robinson Connemara (Penguin Ireland)
‘Magisterial:the range and depth of his knowledge about this piece of the
world is astonishing.’‘Epic in scope and undertaking. There isn’t a stone left unturned in his part of Connemara,and he writes with dignity and supreme knowledge about subjects as diverse as geology and famine graves. A remarkable achievement.’

Previous RSL Ondaatje Prize winners:

2011 Edmund de Waal The Hare withAmber Eyes

2010 Ian Thomson The Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica

2009 Adam Nicolson Sissinghurst: An Unfinished History

2008 Graham Robb The Discovery of France

2007 Hisham Matar In the Country of Men

2006 James Meek The People’s Act of Love

2005 Rory Stewart The Places In Between

2004 Louisa Waugh Hearing Birds Fly



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