Magical Mongolian journal wins first Ondaatje Prize

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Louisa Waugh's "magical" account of a year in a remote Mongolian villagewon the Royal Society of Literature's inaugural Ondaatje Prize yesterday.

Louisa Waugh's "magical" account of a year in a remote Mongolian villagewon the Royal Society of Literature's inaugural Ondaatje Prize yesterday.

Waugh, who lives in Edinburgh, was presented with the £10,000 award for Hearing Birds Fly, in the competition to find a book which best evokes the spirit of a place, at a dinner at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The book was inspired by a detailed diary written during a year of teaching in the Mongolian village of Tsengel, a remote outcrop close to the borders with China and Russia. It describes the dramatic landscape of the village and the daily struggle for survival of its residents. The judges said her magical writing style described extraordinary events including wedding feasts, suicide and acute alcoholism.

Richard Holmes, the literary biographer who chaired the judging panel, said he was struck by some of the book's glorious sequences of prose.

Beryl Bainbridge, the novelist, who sat on the panel of judges which also included the founder of Daunt bookshops, James Daunt, said the winner was a compelling first book.

Waugh, who is in her thirties, was born in Berlin and raised in Liverpool. She has written travel articles for The Independent and The Guardian and has been a regular contributor to the BBC World Service.

Comments