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
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.
- Annabel Abbs, Windswept: Walking in the Footsteps of Remarkable Women (Two Roads)
- Eileen Atkins, Will She Do? Act One of a Life on Stage (Virago)
- Alex Christofi, Dostoevsky in Love: An Intimate Life (Bloomsbury Continuum)
- Ian Collins, John Craxton: A Life of Gifts (Yale University Press)
- Lea Ypi, Free: Coming of Age at the End of History (Allen Lane)
‘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
- 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.
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