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Friday, April 25, 2008

Orwell prize goes to lament for Palestinian landscape

Britain's most prestigious award for political writing, the Orwell book prize, has been won by Raja Shehadeh's Palestinian Walks, a victory further distinguished by such strong competition that the judges felt the need to extend this year's shortlist. The subtitle of Shehadeh's book is Notes on a Vanishing Landscape, and it describes how over 40 years the West Bank he loves has been steadily taken over by Israeli settlements, and how the destruction of a beloved landscape mirrors the damage to Palestinian identity. Judges praised its combination of lyrical nature writing with understated political passion. The chair of the prize, Professor Jean Seaton, saluted Shehadeh's command of detail. "One way of measuring the quality of your freedom is just to take a walk," she said. "Raja Shehadeh's book records how brutalising the loss of a landscape is, both to the losers, and to the takers: there are no winners. Palestinian Walks is a stoic account of a particular place, but one which - like many of Orwell's own works - has universal resonance. The judges felt it made landscape into the essence of politics, and political writing into an art." Orwell prize goes to lament for Palestinian landscape


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