The Burgess Prize

The Observer/Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism

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We are delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2022 Observer / Burgess Prize. Thank you to everyone who submitted a review this year. We have eight shortlistees to announce.

Huge thanks to our judges, the Observer’s pop critic and this year’s guest judge Kitty Empire, arts editor of the Observer Sarah Donaldson, and Will Carr, deputy director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation and editor of Anthony Burgess’s The Ink Trade: Selected Journalism 1961-1993.

The subjects of this year’s shortlisted reviews span photography, television, theatre, literature and role-playing games. As ever, the span of themes in this year’s competition never failed to delight.

The shortlist:

Ian Cowmeadow’s review of Maurice Bloomfield’s ‘Industrial Sublime’ at the V&A Photography Centre, London.
Sample extract: “In among the dramatic lighting, giddying contrasts of scale and a cast of dedicated operatives driving industry ever onward, he alone confronts the camera.”

Mathias Gjesdal Hammer’s review of Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s You Have Not Yet Been Defeated.
Sample extract: “[He] blows up the distinction between theoretical debates and political engagement. Even while behind bars, theory and activism go hand and hand.”

Alice Hughes’s review of Love Life on HBO.
Sample extract: “It’s all there, the highs and lows of relationships: the giddy wait for a text after a thrilling date, the agony of someone you love making life choices that don’t involve choosing you…”

Calum Jacobs’s review of Lear Alone by the And Tomorrow Theatre Company.
Sample extract: “By the end of the first episode he has us in his spell, the full range of Lear’s giant emotional swings captured in his sunken, weathered eyes.”

Rhoda Koenig’s review of ‘Brutal Beauty’ at the Barbican, London.
Sample extract: “…a blotchy, pock-marked surface that, when used for flesh, can appear as distressing as the result of a traffic accident or as perversely enticing and luscious as decay.”

Laura de Lisle’s review of the Dungeons & Dragons web series Critical Role.
Sample extract: “Mechanically, there isn’t much difference between Critical Role and ancient bards reciting epic poems; one just happens to be livestreamed.”

Momtaza Mehri’s review of The White Lotus on HBO.
Sample extract: “Tight grins stretch the faces of workers who hide pregnancies on the job while micromanaging the wealthy’s needs… Anyone who has ever toiled in hospitality will probably wince.”

Rachel Walker’s review of Sally Rooney’s third novel Beautiful World, Where Are You?
Sample extract: “Rooney’s third-person perspective is cold, emotionally uninvested and devoid of interiority. This detachment is a risky move.”

The full reviews remain under wraps for now. The first to be published will the the winner’s review in the print edition of the Observer newspaper. They will be awarded £3,000, while two runners-up will get £500 each.

All this will be revealed in a YouTube stream at 3pm BST on Anthony Burgess’s birthday, Friday 25 February.