The Orwell Prizes are the UK’s most prestigious prizes for political writing. Every year, The Orwell Foundation awards prizes for the work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition “to make political writing into an art.”
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery which forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church.
My Fourth Time, We Drowned by Sally Hayden
Reporter Sally Hayden was at home in London when she received a message on Facebook: “Hi sister Sally, we need your help.” The sender identified himself as an Eritrean refugee who had been held in a Libyan detention center for months, locked in one big hall with hundreds of others. Now, the city around them was crumbling in a scrimmage between warring factions, and they remained stuck, defenseless, with only one remaining hope: contacting her. Hayden had inadvertently stumbled onto a human rights disaster of epic proportions.
From this single message begins a staggering account of the migrant crisis across North Africa, in a groundbreaking work of investigative journalism. With unprecedented access to people currently inside Libyan detention centers, Hayden’s book is based on interviews with hundreds of refugees and migrants who tried to reach Europe and found themselves stuck in Libya once the EU started funding interceptions in 2017.
It is an intimate portrait of life for these detainees, as well as a condemnation of NGOs and the United Nations, whose abdication of international standards will echo throughout history. But most importantly, My Fourth Time, We Drowned shines a light on the resilience of humans: how refugees and migrants locked up for years fall in love, support each other through the hardest times, and carry out small acts of resistance in order to survive in a system that wants them to be silent and disappear.