Burns and Radden Keefe win Orwell Prize 2019

3rd July 2019

This year’s Orwell Prize, which is presented by the Orwell Foundation, and overseen by Jean Seaton, has been won by Anna Burns and Patrick Radden Keefe.

The following report of the awardees, by Katie Mansfield, is reproduced with kind permission of The Bookseller.

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Anna Burns and Patrick Radden Keefe have won the Orwell Prize 2019, with both their books about the Troubles.

Milkman (Faber) by Burns scooped the inaugural political fiction prize, while Radden Keefe took home the political writing prize for Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (William Collins).

Two panels of distinguished judges, working independently, both chose books about the Troubles as their winners.

Burns, who also won the Man Booker and National Book Critics Circle Award for Milkman, triumphed over competition from the six-strong shortlist including Women’s Prize shortlist Diana Evans.

Chair of judges Tom Sutcliffe said: “Milkman is a remarkable book — recording a specific time and a specific conflict with brilliant precision but universal in its account of how political allegiances crush and deform our instinctive human loyalties. Its tone of voice — wry and funny, furious and compassionate — is a marvel.”

New Yorker writer Radden Keefe was praised for his “haunting and timely portrait of the Troubles”.

Say Nothing is an extraordinary piece of writing – it comes across as an immensely personal tale yet encompasses the historical narrative of the situation in Northern Ireland,” said chair of judges Tulip Siddiq.

Judge Ted Hodgkinson added: “This haunting and timely portrait of the Troubles opens with the disappearance of a mother of ten and radiates outwards to encompass the entire conflict, giving voice to characters and stories often shrouded in silence, and leaving an indelible and nuanced impression of the human cost of this unstable chapter of history.”

The winners of both prizes, which are worth £3,000, were unveiled at an event last night (Tuesday 25th June) on Orwell’s birthday, at UCL.

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