We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2021 ASLE-UKI Book Prize. ASLE-UKI offers two prizes: one for the best work in ecocriticism and the other for the best work of creative writing with an environmental theme.
The winner of this year’s critical prize is Evelyn O’Malley for Weathering Shakespeare.
The winner of this year’s creative prize is Ben Smith for Doggerland.
Evelyn O’Malley, Weathering Shakespeare (Bloomsbury)
Informed by the latest developments in ecocritical theory and extensive fieldwork at outdoor theatres throughout the UK, Weathering Shakespeare offers a hard-headed appraisal of open-air Shakespeare as a forum for ecological advocacy. Recognizing that the outdoor/indoor binary is as complex and tenuous as the nature/culture divide, O’Malley is rightly wary of apple-eyed assumptions that al fresco Shakespeare is intrinsically eco-conscious by mere virtue of its setting. Instead this book advances the provocative argument that much outdoor theatre enacts anthropocentricism in its blithe disregard for the non-human surroundings. Chardonnay-sipping audiences soak up an enchanting atmosphere that has little to do with ecological re-enchantment or enlightenment. This commendable scepticism means that the hard-earned efforts to discern moments of genuine consciousness-raising are all the more compelling.
More information about Weathering Shakespeare
Ben Smith, Doggerland (Fourth Estate)
The judges were impressed by this remarkable first novel by a young British writer. Doggerland gives us a bleak but wryly presented future, further on in the Anthropocene. The setting is a lonely decaying windfarm in the North Sea. A boy and an old man live there, responsible for keeping the windmills turning. Their relationship is tense and teasing and then unexpectedly tender. Similarly, the bleakness of the whole setting occasionally lets in a bright shaft of beauty. A disturbing, depleted world of wreckage and endless, possibly futile effort is pierced sometimes, overwhelmingly, by humour and brightness. Beckett meets The Road with touches of Pincher Martin and Steptoe and Son – all in a brutal ecological scenario that makes us desperate for any sign of renewal.
We congratulate this year’s winners on their excellent books!