The Dennis & Victoria Ross Foundation, together with The Atlantic, is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2018 Hitchens Prize is Masha Gessen. The award recognizes Gessen’s long and courageous career as a writer, reporter, teacher, lecturer, translator, and activist. Gessen will be honored with the award, which comes with a $50,000 prize, at a dinner in New York on December 3.
The Hitchens Prize, now in its fourth year, is awarded annually to an author or journalist who, in the spirit of the late Christopher Hitchens, demonstrates a commitment to free expression and to the pursuit of truth without regard to personal or professional consequence. Gessen’s life and work meet that standard in every respect. The previous winners of the award are documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney (2015); Washington Post editor Marty Baron (2016); and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter (2017).
In selecting Gessen for the prize, the judging committee noted that running through much of Gessen’s work is an urgent warning against authoritarian impulses, including in democratic countries. Her life testifies to the power of the written and spoken word as a force for justice and human rights, and as a bulwark against those who would constrain them.
Gessen is currently a staff writer at The New Yorker and a visiting professor at Amherst College. Born in Moscow, she emigrated to the United States with her family when she was a teenager. She later worked in Russia as a journalist over a period of two decades, returning to the United States in 2013 when the Russian government's antigay actions, including threats to remove children from gay parents, took an even more aggressive turn.
Gessen is the author of The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2012); Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot (2014); The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy (2015), about the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing; and other books. She has written for many publications, notably The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and Vanity Fair. Her most recent book, The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, received the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2017.
Christopher Hitchens, who died in 2011, was a contributing editor at The Atlantic and a columnist for Vanity Fair. His books include Why Orwell Matters (2002), God Is Not Great (2007), and Hitch 22: A Memoir (2010).