Dolman Travel Book of the Year split between joint winners

C J Schuler
dolman 300x199 Dolman Travel Book of the Year split between joint winners

Sponsor Bill Dolman with the 2013 judges and winners. From left: Amy Sohanpaul, Peter Hughes, Mary Novakovich, Bill Dolman, Sarah Spankie, Kathleen Jamie, Barnaby Rogerson and David Quentin, for Robert Macfarlane. (c) Victoria Carew-Hunt

After an ardent judging session, the 2013 Authors’ Club Dolman Travel Book of the Year award has been divided between Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (Hamish Hamilton) and Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines (Sort of Books).

At the award ceremony at Hatchards bookshop in Piccadilly, London, last Tuesday, Barnaby Rogerson, chair of the judging panel, spoke of the impressive and consistent quality seen across this year’s shortlist, and the problem of picking one winner.

In the event, the judges were drawn equally to two authors, Kathleen Jamie and Robert Macfarlane, and after four hours of ardent conversation and debate it was agreed that the only thing possible in the circumstances – and for the first time in the history of the award – was to share the £2,500 prize.

“We felt that we had been offered up the strongest shortlist since the Dolman Prize was inaugurated… all five judges found ourselves irresistibly drawn to a pair of books that seemed to shift outwards and extend the scope and boundary of modern travel writing. No longer bogus explorers, pretending to map out our known world. No longer dragging fridges or frigid lovers around the globe. Instead, constructing an adventure from what we are tripping over every day, above us, around us, beneath us as well as excavating experienced memories.”

An occupational hazard of such an award is the probability that the shortlisted authors may be travelling at the time, and while Kathleen Jamie was present to accept her prize in person, Robert Macfarlane was somewhere up the Cairngorms, so his walking companion David Quentin accepted the award on his behalf.

The other shortlisted titles were: The Robber of Memories: A River Journey Through Colombia by Michael Jacobs (Granta), Looking For Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria by Noo Saro-Wiwa (Granta), Meander: East to West Along a Turkish River by Jeremy Seal (Chatto & Windus), and The Golden Door: Letters to America by AA Gill (Weidenfeld & Nicolson).

The judging panel was headed by the travel writer and publisher Barnaby Rogerson, and included Sarah Spankie, deputy editor of Condé Nast Traveller, the freelance journalist and travel writer Mary Novakovich, the travel writer Peter Hughes, and Amy Sohanpaul, editor of Traveller magazine. Between them, as Rogerson pointed out, the judges have 113 collective years of writing, editing, publishing and travelling experience.

Launched in 2006 and sponsored by Authors’ Club member the Rev Dr William Dolman, the award is the only one in the UK dedicated to travel writing, and has attracted acclaimed writers from around the world. The prize seeks to reward works of literary merit in the tradition of great travel writing, which combine a personal journey with the discovery or recovery of places, landscapes or peoples to instil a sense of place, excitement and wonder in the reader. The 2012 Dolman Prize was awarded to John Gimlette for Wild Coast (Profile, 2011).

The Dolman is one of three prizes – the others being the Best First Novel Award and the Art Book Prize – awarded annually by the Authors’ Club, which was founded by the novelist and critic Walter Besant in 1891 and whose members have included Oscar Wilde, George Meredith, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle, JM Barrie, Jerome K Jerome, Ford Madox Ford, HG Wells, Compton Mackenzie and Graham Greene.

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