Ian Penman Honored with the 2024 RSL Ondaatje Prize for “Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors”

Martha Lucas
Ian Penman

In a celebration of literary talent and the evocative power of place, the Royal Society of Literature (RSL) has announced Ian Penman as the recipient of the 2024 RSL Ondaatje Prize. Winning for his novel “Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors,” Penman takes home the prestigious £10,000 award, recognized for his compelling portrayal of post-war Germany.

Upon receiving his prize from Jans Ondaatje Rolls, who represented her father Christopher Ondaatje at the ceremony, Penman expressed his astonishment and gratitude, dedicating the award to the late film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. “I can’t believe it,” Ian remarked, acknowledging Fassbinder’s influence on both his book and culture at large.

This year marks a significant milestone for the RSL Ondaatje Prize, celebrating its 20th anniversary. Since its inception in 2004, the prize has highlighted exceptional works spanning fiction, non-fiction, and poetry that vividly evoke the spirit of a particular place.

Sir Christopher Ondaatje, co-founder of the prize, reflected on the diversity and depth of locations brought to life by the award’s winners over two decades. “The RSL Ondaatje Prize has now been given for twenty years. I am particularly proud of the diversity of places covered by our winners,” he stated.

The award ceremony, held in the distinguished setting of Two Temple Place, saw a gathering of notable literary figures, including previous RSL Ondaatje Prize laureates and special guests like Grayson Perry, Bernardine Evaristo, and David Olusoga.

Chair of judges Xiaolu Guo praised Penman’s novel for its originality, describing it as reflective and interior work that transports readers to the world of European cinema through the lens of Fassbinder’s films. “This is the only book I have read twice this year,” Guo shared, emphasizing the book’s impact on her own memories of film school.

Fellow judges Francis Spufford and Jan Carson lauded the winning novel for its critical insight and exploration of cinema as a mirror to society. Spufford highlighted the novel’s multifaceted look at Fassbinder’s life and work, while Carson praised its depth, labeling it “biography, philosophy, critique” all rolled into one.

The RSL Ondaatje Prize stands as one of ten annual awards presented by the RSL, each designed to celebrate literary excellence across various forms and stages of a writer’s career. From supporting emerging talents to honoring lifetime achievements, these awards underscore the RSL’s commitment to literature’s enduring value and diverse expressions.

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Martha Lucas is passionate about film and literature. She is working on her first novel and writes articles. In charge of the theater and books sections at MCM. Seville, Spain. Contact: martalucas (@) martincid (.) com
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