Meek wins Orwell prize with his book Private Island

Novelist James Meek wins Orwell prize with his book Private Island

Courtesy of: Orwell Prize
Courtesy of: Orwell Prize

Updated Jul 28, 2015

James Meek has been awarded the prestigious Orwell Prize for journalism for carefully studying and portraying how the growth of privatisation has affected the UK his book “Private Island.”  

Every year the award is given to a writer for the work which comes closest to fulfilling George Orwell’s ambition “to make political writing into an art.”

Chair of judges Gillian Slovo announced James Meek as the winner of the award and said that Meek had done exactly what Orwell wanted. 

Slovo said  “He has not written a polemic or an ideological tract, but a careful and elegant exploration of what exactly privatisation has produced in our country.” 

She added “It more than passed the Orwell test of political writing as art, and for this the judges were unanimous in choosing it as the winner.”

In his book, Meek examines privatisations in the United Kingdom. Meek visited Russia in 1991, soon after the Soviet collapse. He starts by looking at the privatisation in Russia and then compares it to privatisations in the UK such as: the postal service, the railways, water, social housing, electricity supply and the NHS.

He wrote in his book, following his visit to Russia in 1991, that "watching the vultures come to feast on the carcass of the world's largest state-owned, planned economy. I began to find the terms to question what had been done by politicians, economic theorists, lobbyists and business people in my own country." 

Meek explained how British society changed with the selling-off of public and transferring services state-owned businesses into corporate hands.

Meek, had his novel “The People’s Act of Love” longlisted for the Booker, and “The Heart Broke In” was shortlisted for the Costa award. 

To win the Orwell Prize 2015 Meek had to beat titles including a biography of Jimmy Savile by Dan Davies, an investigation into the phone hacking scandal by Nick Davies, and a portrait of Delhi by the novelist Rana Dasgupta. 

After receiving his award,  Meek said: “The thing about George Orwell was that he traversed the wings, the left wing and the right wing. It was an excruciating journey, written in cold smoke and cordite across the bloodiest chapters of the 20th century.”

He added: “The great thing about this prize, and the wonderful writers on the shortlist, is that they made me think that what we are, or what we should aspire to be, is not the bird with the big heavy right wing or the bird with the big heavy left wing, but the bird with a really sharp beak.”

TRTWorld and agencies