Winner of the 2015 Bodley Head/ Financial Times Essay Prize Announced!

The Bodley Head (a Vintage imprint) and The Financial Times are proud to announce the winner of their fourth annual essay prize:

Laurence Blair, 24, from London, with the essay ‘150 Years of Solitude: Bolivia’s Dreams of the Sea’

The winning essay was published in the Financial Times Life & Arts on 30th January 2016. The winner will be interviewed on the Vintage Podcast and for, and will also receive:

  • £1000 and an e-publication with The Bodley Head
  • A subscription to, and a selection of books from The Bodley Head

The prize has led to many new and exciting opportunities for winners and runners-up. Hedley Twidle, winner of the very first Bodley Head FT Essay Prize, is now a regular contributor to the FT and other outlets including the New Statesman. Adnan Sarwar, 2013’s winner, has written widely in the UK press; while last year’s winner, Edward Posnett, has his first book, Harvest, due for publication with The Bodley Head in 2017; it grew directly from his winning essay, ‘Eiderdown’.


‘With this report on Bolivia’s sorrow for its lost coastline, Laurence Blair has invented a completely new genre: magical journalism, at once fantastical (Caimans amidst the waterlilies) and pragmatically droll. It’s full of weird wit but also a deep sensitivity to the wounds of national sentiment. It’s one of a kind but I suspect after reading it many more fine essayists will be tempted to follow where Laurence Blair has led.’ – Simon Schama

‘This is the secret history of a place locked in by land and history, a country whose sense of itself is informed by its borders and its frustrated dreams of the sea. Laurie Blair has produced a phenomenal piece of writing that puts the reader right in the heart of somewhere singularly strange and complicated. We were all transported by it.’ – Stuart Williams, Publishing Director, The Bodley Head

‘The winning essay was a brilliantly mature intellectual jigsaw puzzle;- it combined an obscure moment of nationalistic history, with personal anecdote, travel writing and narrative sweep. It was a hugely ambitious project, but one that is a perfect match for the essay format.” – Caroline Daniel, Editor, FT Weekend

‘A fascinating journey upriver and a rich, finely crafted piece of geopolitical writing that taught me a lot I didn’t know about this part of South America.’ – Dan Franklin, Digital Publisher, Penguin Random House UK

The winner of the prize, and the two runners-up (‘Head in the Cloud’ by Sophie McBain and ‘Lady Singham’s Mission Against Love’ by Snigdha Poonam) are each available to download as ebooks via the links below:

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