Ian Penman has won the 2024 Royal Society of Literature (RSL) Ondaatje Prize for Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors, which judges praised for its evocation of post-war Germany. It's an annual prize of £10,000 awarded for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place.

On collecting his prize from Jans Ondaatje Rolls — overseeing the ceremony on behalf of her father, Sir Christopher Ondaatje — Penman thanked the actor and filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, on whom the book is based. "Without him there wouldn’t be this book," Penman said, "and I dedicate this award to him." 

First awarded in 2004, the premise and broad remit of the Prize creates unique lists of outstanding works and authors that you would not usually find sitting side by side. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the prize, which was instituted by funder and co-founder Ondaatje and RSL president emeritus Sir Michael Holroyd.

Ondaatje said: “The RSL Ondaatje Prize has now been given for twenty years. Exploring the theme of place has provided metaphors for my own stories. I am particularly proud of the diversity of places covered by our winners."

The winner was announced at an event held on 14th May at Two Temple Place in London. Among the guests were previous winners including Edmund de Waal and Philip Hensher.

The judges for this years prize were Jan Carson, Xiaolu Guo and Francis Spufford. Chair of Judges Xiaolu Guo commented: "This is the only book I have read twice this year.

Truly it is thousands of mirrors in terms of the thoughts, images and references running through this reflective and wonderfully interior work. The world of European cinema, especially Fassbinder’s film seen through Ian Penman’s eyes, has transported me to a tantalising place called post-war Europe."


The 2023 winner was Anthony Anaxagorou, who was awarded the prize for Heritage Aesthetics.

To find out more visit https://rsliterature.org/rsl-ondaatje-prize/