The Rathbones Folio Prize commenced in 2014, under the name of the “Folio Prize” as it was sponsored by the London based publisher “The Folio Society” for its first two years. There was no prize in 2016. Since 2017 it has been sponsored by Rathbones Investment Management.
The prize was created after a group “took umbrage at the direction they saw the Booker Prize taking…leaning toward popular fiction rather than literary fiction” its launch also coincided with the Booker’s decision to open the award up to international writers, writing in English, in 2013. However, during the first two years the prize was presented to an English language book of fiction published in the UK by an author from any country. The prize dropped from £40,000 in 2014 and 2015 to £20,000 in 2017 and 2018, then climbed to £30,000 from 2019 onwards.
Since Rathbone’s sponsorship, from 2017, the prize was awarded to the best new work of literature published in the English language during a given year, regardless of form (fiction, non-fiction, and poetry).
New for 2023 the Prize will celebrate three distinct shortlists for Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry, to be announced on Tuesday 31st January 2023.
Each category winner, selected from a shortlist of four, will receive a £2,000 prize and one book will then be crowned overall Rathbones Folio Prize winner, with the author receiving an additional £30,000, The Winners will be announced on Monday 27th March 2023.
“The jury for the prize is called the Academy, a body of more than 250 writers and critics that includes Margaret Atwood, Peter Carey, A. S. Byatt, Zadie Smith and J. M. Coetzee. Books are nominated by members of the Academy, three each, ranked. Points are given to each book depending on how many first, second or third rankings are earned. The top scoring books are made into a longlist of 60 books (80 in the first two years). The list of nominated titles is then judged by a panel of three to five judges drawn from the Academy who select a shortlist of eight and the final winner.” (Thanks Wikipedia) A full membership listing can be found here.
The judges for the 2023 are Ali Smith (chair), Jackie Kay and Guy Gunaratne.
Earlier this week the three shortlists for the 2023 Rathbones Folio Prize were announced, here are those works (listed in alphabetical order by author surname). The blurbs are taken straight from the Rathbones Folio Prize website.
‘Glory’ by NoViolet Bulawayo
A long time ago, in a bountiful land not so far away, the animal denizens lived quite happily. Then the colonisers arrived. After nearly a hundred years, a bloody War of Liberation brought new hope for the animals – along with a new leader. Glory tells the story of a country seemingly trapped in a cycle as old as time. And yet, as it unveils the myriad tricks required to uphold the illusion of absolute power, it reminds us that the glory of tyranny only lasts as long as its victims are willing to let it.
‘Scary Monsters’ by Michelle de Kretser
Lyle works for a sinister government department in near-future Australia. An Asian migrant, he fears repatriation and embraces ‘Australian values’. Lili’s family migrated to Australia from Asia when she was a teenager. Now, in the 1980s, she’s teaching in the south of France.
Three scary monsters – racism, misogyny and ageism – roam through the novel, its reversible format enacting the disorientation that migrants experience when changing countries.
‘Pure Colour’ by Sheila Heti
A woman named Mira leaves home to study. There, she meets Annie, whose tremendous power opens Mira’s chest like a portal – to what, she doesn’t know. When Mira is older, her beloved father dies, and she enters that strange and dizzying dimension that true loss opens up. Pure Colour tells the story of a life, from beginning to end.
‘Emergency’ by Daisy Hildyard
Stuck at home alone under lockdown, a woman recounts her 1990s childhood in rural Yorkshire. She watches a kestrel hunting, helps a farmer with a renegade bull, and plays outside with her best friend, Clare. Around her in the village her neighbours are arguing, keeping secrets, caring for one another, trying to hold down jobs. In the woods and quarry there are fox cubs fighting, plants competing for space, ageing machines, and a three-legged deer who likes cake. Emergency reinvents the pastoral novel for the climate change era.
‘Lucy By the Sea’ by Elizabeth Strout
Lucy, the indomitable heroine of My Name is Lucy Barton and Oh, William!, is uprooted from her life in New York City and reluctantly goes into lockdown with her ex-husband William in a house on the coast of Maine.
‘The Passengers’ by Will Ashon
Between October 2018 and March 2021, Will Ashon collected voices – people talking about their lives, needs, dreams, loves, hopes and fears. He used a range of methods including letters sent to random addresses, hitchhiking, referrals from strangers and so on. The resulting testimonies tell the collective story of what it feels like to be alive in a particular time and place – here and now.
‘In Love’ by Amy Bloom
In 2020, Amy Bloom travelled with her husband Brian to Switzerland, where he was helped by Dignitas to end his life, while she sat with him and held his hand. In Love is Bloom’s intimate account of losing Brian: from his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s and the slow onset of the disease, through to her becoming a widow. It is a passionate outpouring of love, and a moving reflection on the enduring power of a marriage.
‘The Escape Artist’ by Jonathan Freedland
In April 1944 nineteen-year-old Rudolf Vrba and fellow inmate Fred Wetzler became two of the first Jews ever to break out of Auschwitz. Crawling under electrified fences and past armed watchtowers, evading thousands of SS men and their dogs, they trekked across marshlands, mountains and rivers to freedom. Vrba’s mission: to reveal to the world the truth of the Holocaust. The knowledge he brought to light would eventually save over 200,000 lives. After the war, he kept running – from his past, from his home country, from his adopted country, even from his own name. Few knew of the truly extraordinary deed he had done.
‘Constructing a Nervous System’ by Margo Jefferson
In Constructing a Nervous System, Margo Jefferson shatters herself into pieces to examine each influence, love and passion that has thrilled and troubled her and made up her sense of self as a person and as a writer – her family, jazz luminaries, dancers, writers, lovers, artists, athletes and stars. Infused with the criticism that she is known for, Jefferson interrogates race, class, family, art and identity as well as the act of writing memoir, and probes fissures at the centre of American cultural life.
‘The Social Distance Between Us’ by Darren McGarvey
Why are the rich getting richer while the poor only get poorer? How is it possible that in a wealthy, civilised democracy cruelty and inequality are perpetuated by our own public services? And how come, if all the best people are in all the top jobs, Britain is such an unmitigated bin fire? Writer, performer and activist Darren McGarvey takes us on a journey through a divided Britain in search of answers. Here, our latter-day Orwell exposes the true scale of Britain’s social ills and reveals why our current political class, those tasked with bringing solutions, are so distanced from our lived experience that they are the last people you’d want fighting your corner.
‘Ephemeron’ by Fiona Benson
The poems in Ephemeron deal with the shortlived and transitory. Telling uncomfortable truths, going deep into male and female drives and desires, our most tender and vulnerable places, and speaking of them in frank, unshrinking ways – these poems are afraid, certainly, but also beautiful, resolute and brave.
‘Quiet’ by Victoria Adukwei Bulley
Victoria Adukwei Bulley’s debut collection, Quiet, circles around ideas of black interiority, intimacy and selfhood, playing at the the tensions between the impulse to guard one’s ‘inner life’ and the knowledge that, as Audre Lorde writes, ‘your silence will not protect you’.
‘Cane, Corn & Gully’ by Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa
Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa’s debut poetry collection uses dance to unearth the narratives of enslaved women in Barbados and their descendants. The collection features reconstructed dance scores of enslaved people using a technique Safiya developed transforming choreography into poetry and vice versa. Barbados itself becomes a guest choreographer to challenge the original colonial and racist documentation of Black West-Indian women.
‘England’s Green’ by Zaffar Kunial
Zaffar Kunial is a proven master of taking things apart, polishing the fugitive parts of single words, of a sound, a colour, the name of a flower, and putting them back together so that we see them in an entirely different light. In the poems of England’s Green, we are invited to look at the place and the language we think we know, and we are made to think again. With everything so newly set, we are alert, as the poet is, to the ‘dark missing / step in a stair’, entering this new world with bated breath.
‘Manorism’ by Yomi Ṣode
In poems exploring family, survival, generational trauma and the complexities of belonging, Manorism is an examination of the lives of Black British men and boys. At the heart of the book is the ongoing pressure of code-switching – changing one’s behaviour and language to suit radically different cultural contexts and environments. The violence of artists such as Caravaggio in seventeenth-century Rome and modern-day commentary by the likes of David Starkey and Piers Morgan provide a lens for considering differences of impunity afforded to white and Black people.