Ruth Ozeki wins Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022

The Book of Form and Emptiness stands out among shortlisted novels

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Ruth Ozeki has won the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction with her fourth novel The Book of Form and Emptiness. Photo Women's Prize for Fiction

American-Canadian author Ruth Ozeki has won the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction with her fourth novel The Book of Form and Emptiness (Canongate Books) –  an inventive, bold, humane novel that tells the story of a thirteen-year-old boy who, after the tragic death of his father, starts to hear the voices of objects speaking to him. 

At an awards ceremony in Bedford Square Gardens, central London – hosted by novelist, playwright, and Women’s Prize Founder Director Kate Mosse – the 2022 Chair of Judges, Mary Ann Sieghart, presented the author with the GBP 30,000 (approximately Rs 28.66 lakh) prize, endowed by an anonymous donor, and the ‘Bessie’, a  limited-edition bronze figurine by Grizel Niven.

The Women’s Prize for Fiction – one of the greatest international celebrations of women’s creativity now in its 27th year – honors outstanding, ambitious, original fiction written in English by women from anywhere in the world.

Chair of judges and bestselling writer Mary Ann Sieghart says, “In an extraordinary year for fiction written by women, and from an incredibly strong shortlist, we were thrilled to choose Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness, which stood out for its sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humor, and poignancy. A celebration of the power of books and reading,  it tackles big issues of life and death and is a complete joy to read. Ruth Ozeki is a truly original and masterful storyteller.”

Set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote fiction by women to the widest range of readers possible, the  Women’s Prize for Fiction is awarded for the best full-length novel of the year written by a woman and published in the UK between April and March the following year. Any woman writing in English – whatever her nationality, country of residence, age, or subject matter – is eligible. 

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Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness. Photo Women’s Prize for Fiction

The judges for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction are Lorraine Candy, award-winning journalist and editor; Dorothy Koomson, global bestselling novelist, journalist, and podcaster; Anita Sethi, award-winning author, and literary journalist; and Pandora Sykes, journalist, broadcaster, and author. Mary Ann Sieghart is this year’s chair. 

Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. She is the award-winning author of four novels –  My Year of Meats, All Over Creation, A Tale for the Time Being, and The Book of Form and Emptiness. A Tale for the Time Being (published in 2013) was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize and translated into 28  languages. She has also written a short memoir, Timecode of a Face. She lives in Northampton,  Massachusetts, where she teaches creative writing at Smith College.

The Book of Form and Emptiness blends memorable characters, a riveting plot, and a vibrant engagement with a variety of themes, including grief and loss, growing up, neurodiversity, climate change, jazz, and our attachment to material possessions. Asked about her inspiration for writing the novel, Ruth Ozeki said, “As a  child, I related to objects as though they were semi-sentient, and even now I think about the stories that things could tell if only they could speak. Do things (trees, pebbles, toaster ovens, nuclear reactors, and others) speak? Can they teach us about life? About reality? Obviously, the answer is yes, if we could only learn to listen.”

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

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