The Spirit of a Place

The spirit of a place

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With Alan Johnson, Hisham Matar, Pascale Petit and Peter Pomerantsev

Celebrating 15 years of the RSL Ondaatje Prize, four past winners discuss the challenges and delights of writing to evoke the spirit of a place. Presenter and broadcaster Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough chairs as the writers discuss their prize-winning books and how the connections between the physical, cultural and personal landscapes of our lives can be revealed through literature.

Pascale Petit’s collection of poetry, Mama Amazonica, which explores motherhood, illness and pain through the foliage and creatures of the Amazon rainforest, won the 2018 Ondaatje Prize. 

Peter Pomerantsev’s winning book in 2016, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, is a journey into the political and ethical landscape of modern Russia. 

In 2013, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson won the Prize with This Boy, a visceral memoir of growing up poor in postwar London.

Hisham Matar’s debut novel set within the highly charged political landscape of Libya, In the Country of Men, won in 2007.

Alan Johnson served as Home Secretary from June 2009 to May 2010 and has written a trilogy of memoirs.

Hisham Matar grew up in New York City, Tripoli, Cairo and London. His work often touches on the plight of his father, a political dissident, who was kidnapped in Cairo and has been missing ever since.
Pascale Petit was born in Paris and currently lives in Cornwall. Her seventh poetry collection Mama Amazonica, published by Bloodaxe in 2017, won the 2018 RSL Ondaatje Prize and was shortlisted for the Roehampton Poetry Prize. 

Peter Pomerantsev is an award-winning contributor to the London Review of Books. His writing has been published in the FT, New Yorker, and Le Monde Diplomatique.

Chaired by presenter and broadcaster Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough.

Please note that this event will be recorded by BBC Radio 3

In partnership with The Royal Society of Literature


Name: The Spirit of a Place
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546