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Lea Ypi, Free: Coming of Age at the End of History | Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2021

Lea Ypi wins The Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2021 for Free

Slightly Foxed and The Biographers’ Club are delighted to announce that the winner of the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2021, chosen by judges Susannah Clapp, Horatio Clare and Johnny de Falbe, is Free: Coming of Age at the End of History by Lea Ypi.

Lea Ypi is an Albanian author and academic. She is a professor of Political Theory at the London School of Economics. Free was The Sunday Times memoir of the year, a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week and was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2021 and the Costa 2021 Biography Award. It is being translated into nineteen languages.

Free is an engrossing coming-of-age memoir in the midst of political upheaval. With acute insight and wit, Lea Ypi traces the limits of progress and the burden of the past, illuminating the spaces between ideals and reality, and the hopes and fears of people pulled along by the sweep of history.

‘Lea Ypi’s memoir Free vividly portrays the confusions of childhood and adolescence among the lies, surreal oddity and dangers that she experienced under the strict rule of communist Albania and the chaos after 1990. Gradually understanding the behaviour of her grandmother, father, mother, neighbours and friends, she reveals the complexities of different, often incompatible ideas of freedom. Both funny and deeply serious, it is a moving personal narrative, a fascinating portrait of Albania, and a profoundly valuable analysis of what it is to be free.’
Johnny de Falbe, 2021 Prize Judge

View press release

About the Prize

The Prize is awarded to the best book published by a first-time biographer or memoirist. The 2021 winner was announced on 8 March 2022. This is the eighth year of the literary quarterly and independent publisher Slightly Foxed’s sponsorship of the Biographers’ Club Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize, with a winner’s award of £2,500. Previous winners: Heather Clark, Red Comet; Jonathan Phillips, The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin; Bart van Es, The Cut Out Girl; Edmund Gordon, The Invention of Angela Carter; Hisham Matar, The Return; Alan Cumming, Not My Father’s Son; Claudia Renton, Those Wild Wyndhams; Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher; Thomas Penn, Winter King; and Matthew Hollis, Now All Roads Lead to France.

2021 Shortlist

‘Five books with startlingly different landscapes and mindscapes: working men’s clubs, Texan plains, Soho dives, Russian prisons, Albanian sitting-rooms.  Witty, subtle, challenging, they are striking proof of the imaginative expansion of biography.’
Susannah Clapp, 2021 Prize Judge

2021 Judges

  • Susannah Clapp is Theatre Critic for the Observer and author of memoirs of Bruce Chatwin and Angela Carter.
  • Horatio Clare is the author of several books of travel and memoir, most recently Heavy Light: A Story of Madness, Mania and Healing.
  • Johnny de Falbe is the director of John Sandoe Books and author of three novels.

Slightly Foxed

Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly and its acclaimed list of classic limited-edition memoirs have become something of an institution in the literary world. Contributors to the magazine include: Diana Athill, Quentin Blake, Ronald Blythe, Margaret Drabble, Adam Foulds, Melissa Harrison, Michael Holroyd, Amy Liptrot, Penelope Lively, Richard Mabey, Robert Macfarlane, Dervla Murphy, Sarah Perry, Jane Ridley, Christopher Rush, Posy Simmonds, Adam Sisman, Ali Smith and Jacqueline Wilson

‘Slightly Foxed’s best offering is its quarterly, in which a dozen or so elegant essays make a case for various amusing but neglected books. A subscription would make an inspired gift for a hungry reader.’ Telegraph

The Slightly Foxed series of memoirs includes works by: Edward Ardizzone, Adrian Bell, Roald Dahl, Jennie Erdal, Anne Fadiman, Graham Greene, Helene Hanff, Diana Holman-Hunt, Michael Holroyd, Laurie Lee, James Lees-Milne, Hilary Mantel, Gavin Maxwell, Jessica Mitford, Jan Morris, Eric Newby, Ernest Shepard and Rosemary Sutcliff

‘The business of reading should please the hand and eye as well as the brain, and Slightly Foxed editions – books or quarterly – are elegant creations. Content follows form, offering new discoveries and old favourites to curious and discriminating readers.’ Hilary Mantel

‘I adore Slightly Foxed. It should be made available in every school as it challenges the idea of the canon. The quarterly is full of impassioned pleas and raves about curious obsessions and literary passions, and to read of these passions is a real privilege.’ Damian Barr


For more information about Slightly Foxed or the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize please contact:

Steph Allen/Hattie Summers
[email protected]
020 7729 9368; +44 20 7729 9368

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