LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A book about people living in secretive North Korea won the 20,000 pound ($30,000) BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction on Thursday.
Los Angeles Times journalist Barbara Demick based “Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea” on extensive interviews with defectors from the Communist state.
“Demick shows in a compelling and unforgettable way that this hermetic country is Orwell’s ‘1984’ made reality,” the judges said in a statement.
The author follows the lives of six North Korean citizens including two lovers who dated secretly for a decade and yet feared to criticize the regime to each other for fear of being turned in to the authorities.
“In the totalitarian regime where they lived, all radio and television broadcasts are government sponsored; ‘Gone With the Wind’ is a dangerous, banned book and during political rallies, spies study your expression to check your sincerity,” the statement added.
Demick beat out Jenny Uglow’s “A Gambling Man,” a biography of England’s 17th century King Charles II, “Blood Knots,” Luke Jennings’ account of learning how to fish and “Too Big to Fail,” Andrew Ross Sorkin’s account of the financial crisis.
Also on the shortlist of six books was “Alex’s Adventures in Numberland” by Alex Bellos, about how mathematical ideas underpin just about every aspect of our lives, and Richard Wrangham’s “Catching Fire: How Cooking made us Human.”
Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato