Olive Otele, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Brit Bennett, and Akwaeke Emezi are on the shortlists for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2021 announced on Friday, May 28, 2021.

The Orwell Prizes, named in honour of English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic George Orwell, are the UK’s most prestigious prizes for political writing. The Orwell Foundation annually awards prizes for work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. Starting in 1994, winners of the Orwell Prize were recognised in the categories of political writing and journalism.

In 2018, The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction was launched and awarded in June 2019. Novuyo Rosa Tshuma and Diana Evans made the shortlist in that first year while Colson Whitehead won it in 2020.

The longlists for 2021 in the categories of the Political Writing Book Prize and Political Fiction Book Prize were announced on April 9. On Friday, May 28, the writers of African descent who made the shortlists announced are;

Political Writing Book Prize

Judges: Anand Menon (Chair), Angela Saini, Richard Ekins, Rosemary Goring


  • African Europeans: An Untold History, Olivette Otele

Anand Menon, Chair of Judges, commented: “Perhaps the highest praise I can give these authors, and their wonderful books, is that the panel had few doubts as to our decision, and are proud to recommend these books as the finest political writing published in the last year. Heartfelt congratulations to all these fantastic writers.”

Political Fiction Book Prize

Judges: Delia Jarrett-Macauley (Chair), Andrea Stuart, Bea Carvalho, and Mark Ford


  • Afterlives, Abdulrazak Gurnah
  • The Death of Vivek Oji, Akwaeke Emezi
  • The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett

The Chair of Judges, Delia Jarrett-Macauley, commented: “With this shortlist we are excited to present a richly international array of novels, creatively inventive and intellectually astute fictional explorations, all of which grapple with big political issues – war, migration, poverty, refugees – and personal challenges such as the death of a child or the loss of a sibling. We are delighted to share this list of political fiction and hope readers will get immense pleasure from all of them.”

The winners, who each get £3,000, will be announced on Friday, June 25, 2021 (George Orwell’s birthday).