Chloe Aridjis and Daniel Saldaña Paris named as 2020 winners of Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award

Writer's Award 2020 winners (c) British Library Board

Mexican born novelists Chloe Aridjis and Daniel Saldaña Paris have been named as the 2020 winners of the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award, in an evening reception at the British Library last night (Monday 25 November).

Both writers are awarded £20,000 and a year’s writing residency at the British Library to develop their novels. For the first time since the Award began in 2012, the winners will also receive a dedicated platform at Hay Festival events in the UK and Latin America.

The winners were selected from a diverse, eight-strong shortlist of yet-to-be-published books set across North and South America, due for publication in both English and Spanish and comprising both fiction and non-fiction.

Chloe Aridjis is a Mexican writer based in London and the author of three novels, Book of Clouds, Asunder and Sea Monsters, published earlier in 2019. She receives the Award for her forthcoming English-language novel Reports from the Land of the Bats, which will explore the complex encounters between artistic, anthropological and local interests and is set in Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas. Aridjis plans to map out her own Chiapanecan topography using material from the British Library’s Latin American collection, which is the largest in the UK. She will draw from a variety of sources including botanical manuals, political tracts, the dream chronicles of the Tzotzil Indians and early travelogues and accounts from the Conquest. 

It was thrilling to choose Chloe as a 2020 winner of the Writer's Award. Her fifth novel, Reports from the Land of the Bats, engages deeply not only with her own personal story but also with the stories threaded through Mexico's histories: indigenous, colonial, political. Aridjis's fascinating application showed her to be a writer truly coming into her own, and we were delighted to recognize her with this award. -- Erica Wagner, Writer’s Award judge

Daniel Saldaña Paris is an essayist, poet, and novelist born in Mexico City whose work has been translated into several languages. He receives the Award for his proposed novel Principio de mediocridad, a story composed of four first person narrations, each an intense relationship with the history and geography of the city of Cuernavaca, Mexico. Saldaña Paris will use the British Library’s Latin American collection to research the cultural history of landscapes and artistic movements in Latin America.

Daniel Saldaña Paris’ multi-voiced, multi-layered proposed novel set in the Mexican city of Cuernavaca has the ambition and originality we look for in our support of writers researching in the British Library collections.  This first Spanish-language winner is the exciting beginning of a collaboration that forges links across nations and languages in a time when this is more urgent than ever. -- Catherine Eccles, Writer’s Award judge

On the judging panel were Mercedes Aguirre, Lead Curator of American collections at the British Library; Catherine Eccles, director of international scouting agency Eccles Fisher Associates; Cristina Fuentes La Roche, International Director at Hay Festival; Philip Hatfield, Head of the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library and Erica Wagner, writer and former Writer’s Award winner for her book Chief Engineer: The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge.

Submissions for the 2021 Writer's Award open in summer 2020. For more information, visit


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Notes to Editors

Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award

The British Library is collaborating with Hay Festival to facilitate and inspire a new wave of world-class storytelling in the UK and across the Americas. Beginning in 2020, the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award will support writers in the creative stages of a new project through a £20,000 prize and a year-long residency at the British Library granting up-close access to the Americas collections as well as curatorial expertise. Winners will have the opportunity to share their published work with international audiences via the new Eccles Centre Platform, hosted by Hay Festivals worldwide. The Award is open to submissions for writing projects of both fiction and non-fiction relating to North, Central, South America and the Caribbean, and due for publication in English, Spanish or any language indigenous to the Americas.

The Eccles Centre for American Studies promotes the British Library's North American collections and supports the study of North America in schools and universities. The Centre was founded by David and Mary Eccles in 1991 and is based at the British Library. The Centre works closely with the Library’s curatorial teams to promote awareness of the United States, Canadian and Caribbean collections and offers programmes of financial support for researchers. The Centre also collaborates closely with members of the American, Canadian and Caribbean Studies communities in the UK, and with other partners interested in the advancement of knowledge about North America. It hosts numerous events each year, and its lively and diverse programme includes lectures, discussion panels, conferences, concerts and seminars aimed at academics, university students, school pupils, creatives and the general public.

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.

Hay Festival is a not-for-profit organisation that brings readers and writers together to share stories and ideas in sustainable events around the world. The festivals inspire, examine and entertain, inviting participants to imagine the world as it is and as it might be. Nobel Prize-winners and novelists, scientists and politicians, historians and musicians talk with audiences in a dynamic exchange of ideas. The Festival’s global conversation shares the latest thinking in the arts and sciences with curious audiences live, in print and online. Upcoming editions include Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye Winter Weekend, Wales (28 November-1 December 2019); Hay Festival Medellín, Colombia (29-31 January 2020); Hay Festival Cartagena de Indias, Colombia (30 January-2 February 2020); Hay Festival Abu Dhabi, UAE (24-27 February 2020); Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye, Wales (21-31 May 2020); Hay Festival Europa28 Rijeka, Croatia (3-5 June 2020); Hay Festival Querétaro, Mexico (September 2020); Hay Festival Segovia, Spain (September 2020); Hay Forum Moquegua, Peru (November 2020); Hay Festival Arequipa, Peru (November 2020); @hayfestival

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