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…