Raja Shehadeh’s ‘Occupation Diaries’ Makes 2013 Orwell Prize Shortlist

Two hundred ten books submitted for the 2013 Orwell Prize for Books — Britain’s top prize for political writing — have now been narrowed to seven:

ODAmong the seven shortlisted titles are Palestinian writer Raja Shehadeh’s Occupation Diaries and Clive Stafford Smith’s Injustice. This makes for a rematch, as Shehadeh won The Orwell Prize in 2008 with Palestinian Walks, the same year that Clive Stafford Smith was previously shortlisted for Bad Men: Guantanamo Bay and the Secret Prisons.

The list also includes Marie Colvin‘s On the Front Lines. Colvin was killed on Feb. 22 while on assignment in Homs, Syria.

Director of the Prize, Jean Seaton, said in a prepared statement: “This year’s judges started from Orwell’s injunction, ‘My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice.’ That is what the judges hunted for and found, writing that was measured and calm not simply angry. Writing that is nevertheless driven by values.”

The four others on the shortlist were:

Carmen Bugan Burying the Typewriter (Picador)
Richard Holloway Leaving Alexandria (Canongate Books)
Pankaj Mishra From the Ruins of the Empire (Allen Lane)
A. T. Williams A Very British Killing (Jonathan Cape)

Occupation Diaries  is based on diaries Shehadeh has been keeping since 1967. He told  Orwell organizers last year that he’s kept the diaries “as a coping mechanism to help him understand and deal with his emotions, sense of trapped bafflement and anger.” The book covers the period through when Palestine went to the UN to seek recognition last year.

“Israel has had physical control over the area and they use the physical control to change the reality of the place to build roads and buildings, to bomb Gaza,” Shehadeh told Orwell organizers. “This it was able to do because physical control is a strong weapon. Yet Israel has been unable to convince anyone that it’s not occupied territory. Everybody – even America, their biggest ally – speaks about it as illegally occupied territory. Israel’s victory is not total.”

The winners of £3,000 prize is set to be announced on May 15.


A “google preview” of the book.