US author's book on life in N.Korea wins UK prize

2nd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

American author Barbara Demick on Thursday won Britain's top non-fiction award for her account of life in North Korea, a picture of an Orwellian society drawn from interviews with defectors.

The Los Angeles Times journalist scooped the 20,000 pound (24,200 euro, 30,300 dollar) 2010 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for her work "Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea."

She follows the lives of six North Koreans and shows "in a compelling and unforgettable way that this hermetic country is Orwell's 1984 made reality," according to the prize organisers.

The people documented include a couple of teenage lovers who dated in secret, a woman doctor and a homeless boy.

"It is the personal detail in 'Nothing to Envy' that makes it both gripping and moving," said Evan Davis, chair of the judges and a BBC journalist.

"It is a real testament to Demick's writing, that a book on such a grim topic can be so hard to put down."

The title of the book is taken from a song taught to North Korean children which contains the words: "We have nothing to envy in the world."

Demick, a foreign correspondent based in Beijing, beat five other shortlisted works to win the prize.

They included Alex Bellos's attempt to simplify maths for the masses in "Alex's Adventures in Numberland", and Andrew Ross Sorkin's account of the global financial crisis in "Too Big to Fail."

© 2010 AFP

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