The Rathbones Folio Prize 2020 Winner

It is our great pleasure to confirm Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive as the winner of the Rathbones Folio Prize for 2020.

Blistering, powerful and intense, Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive maps two concurrent journeys near the Mexican border – a family road trip, and the migration of thousands of children across that border to the United States. A searing, eloquent meditation on exile, inequality, and the ties that hold a family – and society – together.

 

The Shortlist

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A breath-taking tour de force that draws unflinching and uncomfortable parallels between the bestial activities of Ancient gods and the toxic immorality of modern society, Vertigo and Ghost builds on the dissonant connections of Bright Travellers to create a poetry of searing honesty and uncompromising ethical heft.

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An artist and art critic, Laura Cumming brings a skilled observer’s eye to her investigation into a long-held family mystery that spirals outwards, like the whorls of a shell, from her mother’s unexplained 3-day disappearance as a child on Chapel Sands. Piecing together the clues held in photographs, mementos and personal memories, she starts to unravel a multi-layered, deeply moving story of family and community that is striking and unforgettable. Like the treasures Cumming unearths as she follows the threads of her mother’s story - ordinary objects, telling extraordinary stories – On Chapel Sands is a rare find.

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A vital, powerful book about the experiences of the author’s body through the pivotal events of life, Constellations is also a profound rumination on womanhood in modern Ireland and the importance of artistic expression. Frequently raw yet also poised and eloquent, Gleeson’s fine work is a superb slice of life writing.

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The two novellas that comprise Victory reveal a writer in full, glorious control of his sometimes contentious subject matter. Blackly comic and scalpel-sharp in their observation of human nature and the relationship between power and violence, both Feathered Glory and Afternoon of a Faun confirm Lasdun’s already towering reputation.

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Already being hailed as one of the twenty-first century’s great American novels, Ben Lerner’s deft, cerebral tale of peer pressure and toxic masculinity in a Kansas high school reverberates with bracingly relevant issues of gender politics and social bullying. Exquisitely written and compellingly plotted, The Topeka School packs a mighty literary punch.

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Daring, brave and fiercely intelligent, Mexican-born novelist Luiselli’s dual narrative of two very different family journeys plays with form and contrast to highlight the fissures and fault lines of a deeply divided and unequal society. Drawn from her first-hand experiences helping child asylum seekers, Luiselli’s first novel in English fashions the American road story into something genuinely novel: a blistering catalogue of migration and exile. Blazing with eloquent indignation and dark satire, Lost Children Archive is a profoundly human story about major political themes.

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Painting a complex, disturbing portrait of the myriad young women who abandoned settled, comfortable lives to commit themselves to the cause of Islamic State, Guest House for Young Widows addresses major socio-political themes through a prism of profound humanity. Rich in both personal testimony and penetrating commentary, Moaveni’s book is the definitive work on a hugely significant topic.

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A mercurial mix of established classics and brand new stories from the peerless Zadie Smith, Grand Union touches on themes and topics of tremendous relevance and power in this disjointed age. From reflective character study to gimlet eyed environmental dystopia, this collection is further proof of Smith’s mastery of the form.

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Previous Winners

The Perseverance
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Ghosts of the Tsunami
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The Return
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Family Life
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Tenth of December
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