The winners of the Lettre Ulysses Award – a prize for book-length reportage that I discussed a few weeks ago – have been announced. Alexandra Fuller’s account of her travels with a white, African mercenary, Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier took the 50,000 Euro first prize while A Season in Mecca: Narrative of a Pilgrimage by Moroccan Abdellah Hammoudi and Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq by Riverbend won the 30,000 Euro second prize and 20,000 Euro third prize, respectively.
There are plenty of awards for fiction and quite a few for different types of non-fiction, but, according to the people behind the Lettre Ulysses Award, “no world prize for reportage literature existed before 2003.” That’s when a couple of German foundations got together “to provide symbolic, moral and financial support for reporters whose courage, curiosity, and integrity drives them to create in-depth, well-researched texts, bringing unknown, forgotten, and hidden realities to light. The prize is also intended to publicly honor and highlight the extraordinary achievements of literary reportage.” Each year they award a first, second and third prize worth 50,000, 30,000 and 20,000 Euros, respectively. One of the most interesting aspects of this award is its international reach. In the award’s first two years, a Somali, a Russian, two Chinese and two Americans have been prizewinners. Indeed this international bent is a part of the award’s mission: “By facilitating the translation and publication of texts from often inaccessible places or languages, this project aims to focus attention on diverse topics and issues.”This year’s award will be announced on October 15th, and the Shortlist looks very interesting:Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq by Riverbend (Iraq)Von den Kriegen: Briefe an Freunde (Of the wars: Letters to friends) by Carolin Emcke (Germany)Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier by Alexandra Fuller (Zimbabwe)A Season in Mecca: Narrative of a Pilgrimage by Abdellah Hammoudi (Morocco)The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime by William Langewiesche (USA) (my review)Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta (India)Muerte en el Pentagonito: Los cementerios secretos del Ejarcito Peruano (Death in the Pentagonito: The Secret Cemeteries of the Peruvian Army) by Ricardo Uceda (Peru)