Orwell prize 2016’s longlist dominated by Middle East’s politics

Some of the titles nominated for Orwell's prize for 2016.

Some of the titles nominated for Orwell’s prize for 2016.

Britain’s prestigious award for political writings, Orwell Prize, has announced its longlist of 2016. The prize which approaches George Orwell’s ambition to “make political writing into an art,” is dominated by political books on the Middle East for this round.

Though the books are mainly by European and American authors, the focus of most of the books on the longlist is the troubling political situation in the Middle East. Journalist and Middle East expert Jason Burke is on the list for his book “The New Threat from Islamic Militancy,” as is Wendell Steavenson, for “Circling the Square,” her account of Egypt’s revolution from Tahrir Square in Cairo. Emma Sky’s first book, “The Unravelling”, where she writes about her experience as a civilian volunteer during the Iraq war.

Syrian writer Samar Yazbek, who won the 2012 PEN Pinter International Writer of Courage award for her coverage of the war in Syria, is also nominated for her book “The Crossing.” This documents her return to Syria over the Turkish border, after being exiled for her political writing.

No fiction contenders made it to the list this year of the prize whose former winners includes Alan Johnson, Andrea Gillies and British novelist and journalist James Meek, all notable names in political journalism and writing.

According to Guardian Books, the judges for the 2016 Orwell prize for books are Cambridge politics professor Andrew Gamble; journalist David Goodhart and the Economist’s books editor Fiammetta Rocco, with Lord William Waldegrave. In a statement, the panel said: “All of the longlisted books were written out of personal witness. They shared a relationship to the events they described, a holding to account, and they shared a direct, personal engagement with the material.”

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