Turkish Author Jailed for Life Nominated for £50,000 Book Prize

By September 17, 2019Literary Awards, News

Following the failed Turkish coup in 2016, Turkish author Ahmet Altan was sentenced to jail for life for sending out “subliminal messages in favour of a coup” and apparently aiming to overthrow the government. His imprisonment attracted a great deal of criticism from around the globe, with PEN America “a horrific assault on freedom of expression.” After three years in prison, Altan has been longlisted for the Baillie Gifford prize for non-fiction for his memoir I Will Never See the World Again.

I Will Never See the World Again was put together from notes Altan gave to his lawyers, with one line reading: “never again would I be able to kiss the woman I love, embrace my kids, meet with my friends, walk the streets … I would not be able to watch the sunrise.” Many other writers have condemned Altan’s sentence, and JM Coetzee and AS Byatt called for his release in an open letter which stated Altan’s “crime is not supporting a coup but the effectiveness of his criticism of the current government.”

The list of non-fiction books up for the award also includes Amelia Gentleman’s exposé called The Windrush Betrayal, to Furious Hours, Casey Cep’s book that examines Harper Lee’s attempts to write a true crime story. The winner receives not only the prestigious award, but also £50,000.

Editor of the Times Literary Supplement and chair of judges, Stig Abell, said the panel had “ended up with a longlist of books that are by turns provocative, magisterial and beautiful pieces of work.”

“Above all, they are companionable: stories to which you are happy to turn and return, some with contemporary resonances, others that are more timeless,” he Abell. “Going from 12 down to six and then picking a winner is going to be a bit of a challenge.”

The longlist currently consists of:

  • I Will Never See the World Again by Ahmet Altan
  • Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
  • On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming
  • The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company by William Dalrymple
  • Homesick: Why I Live in a Shed by Catrina Davies
  • The Lives of Lucian Freud: Youth by William Feaver
  • The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the Hostile Environment by Amelia Gentleman
  • Maoism: A Global History by Julia Lovell
  • The Ministry of Truth: A Biography of George Orwell’s 1984 by Dorian Lynskey
  • Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni
  • The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold
  • The Outlaw Ocean by Ian Urbina

The winner of the award will be revealed on November 19

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