Philippe Sands’ East West Street wins The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, 2016
Philippe Sands has been named the winner of The £30,000 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction for East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity weaves together historical, legal and familial narratives to reveal the origins of international law, beginning and ending with the last day of the Nuremberg trial.
“As a litigator you are a storyteller. East West Street is really a double detective story. It’s a search to unlock a family secret: the circumstances in which my grandfather and my grandmother, along with my mother, left Vienna in the course of the years that followed. And then it’s a detective story about the origins of crimes against humanity and genocide: two subjects that occupy my life as an academic but also as a practising lawyer doing cases in international courts”, commented Philippe Sands in an interview given for the awards ceremony.
Philippe Sands is Professor of Law at University College London and a practicing barrister at Matrix Chambers. He frequently appears before international courts, including the International Criminal Court and the World Court in The Hague, and has been involved in many of the most important cases of recent years, including Pinochet, Congo, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Iraq and Guantanamo. His previous books include Lawless World (on the Iraq war), and Torture Team (on the embrace of torture by the Bush Administration).
Stephanie Flanders, Chair of the Judges, comments:
"Any one of the shortlisted books would have been a worthy winner. But in the end we all agreed that Philippe Sands had pulled off something extraordinary with this book that deserved to reach as wide an audience as possible. This is not just one story but several different stories, woven together - each important and each deeply personal to the author. The result is a multi-layered history that is impressive in its own right but also a satisfying, suspenseful read. A stunning achievement. "
The winner has been chosen by a panel chaired by former BBC Economics Editor, Stephanie Flanders, together with Philip Ball, science writer and author; Jonathan Derbyshire, executive comment editor of the Financial Times; Dr Sophie Ratcliffe, scholar, writer and literary critic and Rohan Silva, co-founder of the social enterprise, Second Home.
Sarah Whitley, Partner of Baillie Gifford and Chair of its Sponsorship Committee, adds:
“We are very pleased by the very high standard of literature which been considered for the prize in this first year of our sponsorship. The judges must have had great difficulty in picking a winner from such a formidable shortlist, but we are delighted to congratulate Philippe Sands on becoming a very worthy inaugural winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction.”
On accepting the Baillie Gifford Prize 2016, Philippe Sands told the assembled audience that he and fellow shortlistee Hisham Matar had decided in advance that if either were to win, they would share the prize and donate it to an appropriate refugee charity (barring a decent bottle of cognac and some good pickles).
Philippe Sands commented:
"In these trying times we feel that we could all come together to make a real difference. From conversations this evening I understand that some of the Baillie Gifford partners would like to match this from their own personal funds, and that Stephanie Flanders will also be donating her honorarium for chairing the prize. My thanks to them all."
Alongside East West Street, the three other titles on the shortlist were Svetlana Alexievich’s Second-hand time, Margo Jefferson’s Negroland: A Memoir and Hisham Matar’s The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between.