The biography of an Italian fascist won the prestigious non-fiction award last night
Lucy Hughes-Hallett is this years winner of the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction, taking home the £20,000 ($32,000) prize money for her biography of the debauched Italian artist who became a national hero in pre-WW2 Italy; The Pike. Her third book in total, Hughes-Hallett beat five other hopefuls to take home the esteemed award, which recognises excellence in English-language non-fiction.
The British historian and biographer won the award ahead of Charles Moore’s Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography; Charlotte Higgins’ reconstruction of ancient Britain, Under Another Sky; bee conservationist Dave Goulson's A Sting in the Tale; Empires of the Dead, a history of World War I cemeteries by David Crane and fellow finalist William Dalrymple’s recount of 19th-century Afghanistan, Return of the King.
Held at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London on Monday, 4 November, night, Hughes-Hallett's win marked the 15th time the award had been given out since it was launched in 1999.
"Readers of The Pike will surely admire Lucy Hughes-Hallett's writing, and her intricate crafting of the narrative," said Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and chair of judges (via the BBC). "Her original experimentation with form transcends the conventions of biography. And they will be transfixed by her vivid portrayal of D'Annunzio - how this repellent egotist quickly gained literary celebrity - and how, thereafter, his incendiary oratory, and foolhardy bravery influenced Italy's involvement in World War One and the subsequent rise of Mussolini. The book shows how fascism rose partly as a perversion of nationalism - a trend still sadly relevant in today's world."
The Samuel Johnson Prize - named after the 18th century novelist and essayist - for non-fiction is open to books written in the English language and regarding the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts.
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The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.