Baghdad history wins Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize


The author of the Ondaatje Prize-winning Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood speaks of the difficulties of writing while in a warzone

Last Monday, Justin Marozzi won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize for Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood. On Tuesday he was off to Norway, to join in a Nato war-gaming exercise as a media and communications expert. After what he’s been through in recent years, he joked: “The peaceful fjords of Scandinavia will take a bit of getting used to.”

Marozzi, 44, won the £10,000 prize, for a book “evoking the spirit of a place”, with a history that skilfully blends reportage from the modern-day city with research into the ancient one (it was founded in 762). “Baghdad,” he says with understatement, “is not the easiest place in the world in which to live, work or conduct historical research.”

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