Jonathan Freedland up for global £30,000 literary award

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Jonathan Freedland up for global £30,000 literary award

Guardian journalist and thriller writer shortlisted for Rathbones Folio Prize for The Escape Artist, about Auschwitz escapee Walter Rosenberg, later known as Rudolf Vrba.

Jonathan Freedland signs copies of The Escape Artist, about Rudolf Vrbo
Jonathan Freedland signs copies of The Escape Artist, about Rudolf Vrbo

Jonathan Freedland has been shortlisted for a prestigious literary award for his non-fiction novel about the first Jewish man to escape Auschwitz.

Freedland is one of five writers put forward in the non-fiction category for the Rathbones Folio Prize, with his book ‘The Escape Artist’, published by John Murray Press.

It tells the true story of Slovakian Walter Rosenberg, later known as Rudolf Vrba. In April 1944, the 19-year old and fellow inmate Alfred Wetzler became the first Jews ever known to break out of Auschwitz. They were never recaptured.

Freedland recounts how Vrba, determined the world must know the horrors of the Nazi camp, had mentally stored meticulous notes and details of its murder machinery, culminating in the creation of the 32-page Vrba-Wetzler report. Distributed across the world, it resulted in over 200,000 lives being saved although Vrba always believed much more could have been done.

The Escape Artist was also shortlisted for the 2022 Baillie Gifford Prize and Waterstones Book of the Year, and long-listed for the 2022 Wingate Literary Prize.

The Folio Prize recognises writers from across the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. Each category winner receive a £2,000 prize and, as a finalist, Freedland is a contender for the overall prize worth £30,000.

Chair of the Judges, Ali Smith said: “It’s a prize unlike any other in that the books in the running are specifically chosen from a long list nominated solely by writers. So we started with a list of great books, we’ve delighted in our reading and our meetings with each other over the past months, and we’re hoping our shortlists will excite other readers and writers as much as they’ve excited us.”

Freedland is the author of 11 books, including the award-winning Bring Home the Revolution. He has also written nine thrillers under the name Sam Bourne, including The Righteous Men which was a #1 Sunday Times bestseller and has sold over two million copies worldwide.

The Rathbone Prize winner is announced on 27 March in a ceremony at the British Library.

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