After being nominated three times for the UK’s top nature-writing award, Robert Macfarlane has finally won the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize for his book, Underland, an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind.
Traveling through “deep time” – the dizzying expanses of geologic time that stretch away from the present – Macfarlane moves from the birth of the universe to a post-human future, from the prehistoric art of Norwegian sea caves to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, from Bronze Age funeral chambers to the catacomb labyrinth below Paris, and from the underground fungal networks through which trees communicate to a deep-sunk “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come. Woven through Macfarlane’s own travels are the unforgettable stories of descents into the underland made across history by explorers, artists, cavers, divers, mourners, dreamers, and murderers, all of whom have been drawn for different reasons to seek what Cormac McCarthy calls “the awful darkness within the world.”
The Wainwright Prize seeks to reward the best writing on the general outdoors, nature and UK-based travel writing and is sponsored by Wainwright Golden Beer. It celebrates the legacy of British guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright whose walking guides to the Lake District of northwest England, published between 1955 and 1966, have been treasured by generations of walkers.
Chair of judges Julia Bradbury comments: “I am absolutely delighted that Underland has won the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize; Robert has been shortlisted for the prize four times now, so, it feels right that this book, which we all considered to be his best book, has finally won. He writes in a beautiful, lyrical style and this book is a claustrophobic thriller of sorts. He takes his subject, and excavates it comprehensively.”