In the past, we may have been guilty of neglecting Canada’s Cundill Prize in Historical Literature. At $75,000, this award, administered by McGill University, is one of the largest in the world for a nonfiction book.
But this year, we’re just six degrees of separation from one of the finalists.
Gary Bass, a professor of international affairs at Princeton University, is in the running for his latest book, “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide” (Knopf). Bass is the twin brother of Warren Bass, a former nonfiction editor of Book World. (Tragically, Warren now works for the Wall Street Journal.)
In his review for The Washington Post, Neil Sheehan called Bass’s book “a profoundly disturbing account of the hitherto hidden role of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of East Bengal . . . and the making of 10 million refugees during Pakistan’s civil war in 1971.”
The other two finalists for this year’s Cundill Prize are:
• Richard Overy for “The Bombing War: Europe 1939-45” (Allen Lane). Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley has called Overy “one of the most accomplished and respected historians of the war. [He] is sympathetic to ordinary soldiers and those at higher levels who determined their fates, but he is also . . . never blinded by the vast mythology in which World War II is steeped.”
• David Von Reybrouck for “Congo: The Epic History of a People” (Ecco). In his review for The Washington Post, Martin Meredith called “Congo” “a vivid panorama of one of the most tormented lands in the world.”
Each runner-up will receive $10,000.
The Cundill Prize is awarded annually “to an individual, of any nationality and from any country, who has published a book determined to have had (or likely to have) a profound literary, social and academic impact in the area of history.” Books published in English from June 1, 2013 to May 31, 2014 are eligible for this year’s prize.
The jurors are David Frum, a senior editor of the Atlantic; Marla R. Miller, a professor at University of Massachusetts; Stuart Schwartz, a professor at Yale University; Thomas H.B. Symons, a professor emeritus at Trent University; and Althia Raj, the Huffington Post Canada Ottawa bureau chief. They chose the finalists from 165 submissions.
The winner will be announced on Nov. 20 in Toronto.