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Former British soldier wins 2013 Bodley Head/FT essay prize

Adnan Sarwar, a 35-year old former British soldier who served in the Iraq War, has beaten more than 200 entrants to win the second Financial Times and Bodley Head non-fiction essay competition. His work, ‘British Muslim Soldier’, is a meditation on identity, dealing with why he, a Pakistani boy fromBurnley with no degree, decided to join the British army. It is a work of non-fiction with all the velocity of a gripping short story.

Caroline Daniel, FT Weekend editor and chairman of the six-strong judging panel, said: “The Bodley Head/FT Essay Prize is a truly global competition with entries fromBangaloretoSurrey. In an age remorselessly defined by Twitter, it was a relief – more importantly – a pleasure – to see so many young writers embracing the long-form essay. We look forward to bringing some of these new voices to our FT Weekend readers. Sarwar is a worthy winner.”

Stuart Williams, publishing director at The Bodley Head, said: “This was a bumper crop of essays, even stronger than last year’s, and proof that the essay is in rude health. They came from all over the world and cover a world of subjects – urgently, amusingly, inventively and expertly. We have a blistering winner that asks searching questions about cultural identity in an unforgettable voice and two outstanding runners-up.”

Sarwar wins £1,000, publication of his work in the Financial Times Life & Arts section on 11th January, and as a free digital short with The Bodley Head; plus a mentoring session with The Bodley Head and FT editors.

Two runners-up, Alexandra Zelman-Doring, 28, from New York, in second place, and Nina Lyon, 32, from London, who came in third, win £500 each and will see their essays published as The Bodley Head free digital shorts on 30th January 2014.

Lyon’s essay ‘Mushroom Season’ chronicles the philosophy, history and legality of psychedelic mushrooms; while Zelman-Doring’s ‘A Community of Mortals’, a brave, elegant reflection on the role of a sudden accident, will appear in the FT alongside Sarwar’s.

- Ends -

Notes to editors

The Bodley Head/FT Essay Prize aims to discover global young talent in long-form essay writing. It was launched in September 2012 with the essay ‘Why I write’ by Simon Schama and is open to writers up to the age of 35. Entries of up to 3,500 words are accepted on any subject. This year’s topics ranged from the art of conversation, Frankenburgers and a personal perspective on medicine.

Judges for the 2014 prize were:

  • Historian and FT contributor Simon Schama

  • Tom Weldon, CEO of Penguin Random HouseUK

  • Stuart Williams, publishing director at The Bodley Head

  • Dan Franklin, digital publisher at Random House Group

  • Lucy Tuck, editor of FT Life & Arts

  • Caroline Daniel, FT Weekend editor

For further information about the prize please contact:

Maria Garbutt-Lucero
The Bodley Head
+44 (0)20 7840 8563

Isabel Berwick |Financial Times
+44 (0)20 7873 4456

Journalists, please contact:

Kristina Eriksson
Financial Times
+ 44 (0) 20 7873 4961

About the Financial Times: 

The Financial Times, one of the world’s leading business news organisations, is recognised internationally for its authority, integrity and accuracy. Providing essential news, comment, data and analysis for the global business community, the FT has a combined paid print and digital circulation of almost 629,000 (Deloitte assured, Q3 2013).Mobile is an increasingly important channel for the FT, driving more than 40% of total traffic and a quarter of digital subscriptions. FT education products now serve 32 of the world’s top 50 business schools.

About The Bodley Head: 

The Bodley Head, an imprint of Random House UK, publishes a distinguished list of non-fiction books by writers who are expert in their field on subjects including science, politics, history, music and economics. Its authors include Karen Armstrong, MishaGlenny, Jeffrey Sachs, Simon Schama, Jonathan Powell and Roger Penrose.

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