Albanian author Lea Ypi has been crowned the winner of the £10,000 RSL Ondaatje Prize

Lea Ypi has been named winner of the Royal Society of Literature (RSL) Ondaatje Prize.

The Albanian author received a £10,000 prize for her 2021 novel Free, a coming-of-age memoir set amid political upheaval.

The award is given to an outstanding work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry which the organizers say “best evokes the spirit of a place”.

After receiving the award, Ypi said she hopes the book will “make people more sensitive to the realities” of a country like Albania and spark interest in its history.


The RSL Ondaatje winner 2022 Lea Ypi

“This started as a book about concepts, so to receive this award for best book that evokes the spirit of a place is incredible,” she said.

“It shows that concepts and places are connected.

“It really matters to me because the place whose spirit is being summoned is Albania, a place that people don’t usually think about – it’s not a place that makes headlines unless something problematic happens.

“I hope it will interest people in the history of this country, which is also a history of universal importance… and raise people’s awareness of the realities that deserve attention, regardless of whether it’s an acknowledged crisis.” in one place or not.”

Ypi prevailed against five other authors – Sathnam Sanghera, AK Blakemore, Cal Flyn, Yousif M Qasmiyeh and Elif Shafak.

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She was announced the winner and presented with the award by RSL President emeritus Colin Thubron at an event at Two Temple Place in London on Wednesday evening.


Colin Thubron presents The 2022 RSL Ondaatje to Lea Ypi at 2 Temple Place London

The competition’s judges, Sandeep Parmar, Patrice Lawrence and Philippe Sands, said Ypi was a “master at juxtaposing (between) grand and personal narratives”.

“In reading and re-reading Lea Ypis Free, we had a strong feeling that the book’s central concerns — politics, personal history, the very meaning of freedom — spoke so resonantly to our lived moment,” they said.

“Ypi’s work, both darkly humorous and deeply serious, has led us to think deeply about the need for veracity in the stories we are told and how we negotiate our own lives within them.”

The author is also Professor of Political Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National University.

Her work has previously received several awards, including the British Academy Prize for Excellence in Political Science and the Leverhulme Prize for Outstanding Research Achievement. Albanian author Lea Ypi has been crowned the winner of the £10,000 RSL Ondaatje Prize

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