Valeria Luiselli wins Rathbones Folio Prize for ‘extraordinary’ novel

By Tom Horton, PA

Valeria Luiselli has won the Rathbones Folio Prize for her “singular, teeming, extraordinary” novel Lost Children Archive.

The Mexican author won £30,000 in addition to the award for her third novel, which tells the fictional story of a family holiday and follows children trying to cross the US border from her homeland.

Luiselli saw off competition from Laura Cumming’s On Chapel Sands, Ben Lerner’s The Topeka School and Zadie Smith’s Grand Union to scoop the award.

Ben Lerner’s The Topeka School was on the shortlist for the prize (PA)

Paul Farley, the chair of judges, said: “In a year of brilliant books, Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli is our unanimous choice as winner of the 2020 Rathbones Folio Prize — and we’re all thrilled and delighted to be able to celebrate this genuinely original and bravura performance of a novel: a road trip, a documentary, a portrait of a family and of the American borderlands, and a journey into the idea of home and belonging doesn’t even begin to do justice to this singular, teeming, extraordinary book.”

The Rathbones Folio Prize award ceremony, which was due to take place at the British Library, had to be cancelled over coronavirus and replaced by a digital event.

Paul Stockton, CEO of Rathbones, said: “As we watch how rapidly our world can change and impact people’s lives, the judges of the Rathbones Folio Prize have unanimously rallied behind a book that will bring the personal story of a disintegrating American family embarking on a fraught road trip to a worldwide audience.”

Also nominated for the award were Fiona Benson’s Vertigo & Ghost, Sinead Gleeson’s Constellations, James Lasdun’s Victory and Guest House For Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni.

Waterstones will be giving 500 copies of Luiselli’s book to people who are self-isolating at home.

The Rathbones Folio Prize was established in 2013 as an English language book prize that is open to writers from around the world.