Robert Harris was the winner of the 2014 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction for his novel about the Dreyfus affair, An Officer and a Spy. Originally shortlisted for the Prize in its inaugural year in 2010, the author returned to Melrose, Scotland four years later to receive his award from the Duke of Buccleuch at the Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival on Friday 13th June 2014.
A compelling recreation of a French military scandal that became one of the most infamous miscarriages of justice, An Officer and a Spy is Robert Harris’ ninth novel. His seventh, Lustrum, was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize in 2010.
The judges said:
An Officer and A Spy is a masterwork, a novel written by a story-teller at the pinnacle of his powers. In making compelling literary drama out of the Dreyfus affair, an episode familiar to many, Robert Harris has done something Walter Scott would have been proud of. Exactly 200 years ago, Scott pulled off the same transformation with Waverley and another familiar episode, the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion.
The book is set at the end of the 19th century but its themes have resonated ever since. Cover-ups, anti-semitism and a suspicion of the other, codes and leaks, and the mission of a single individual to force a government to right an injustice – all of these have modern parallels.
An Officer and a Spy was chosen from a shortlist of six novels, with settings ranging from New Zealand in the gold rush, Texas at the turn of the twentieth century, and the Scottish Borders in late medieval times.