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‘Five Ways of Being a Painting’ by William Max Nelson was ultimately named our winning entry, and deservedly so. It is a curious mix of the philosophical and the personal, the argumentative and the ruminative, with each of its many modes mutually illuminating the others.

‘It feels larger than itself,’ argued one of the ­judges. ‘It is idiosyncratic in a persuasive way,’ remarked ­another. The deft blending together of the strands of Europe and China, past and present, hiding and seeing; the delicate but forceful episodic style; the intellectual reach – this, we concluded, was a real essay.


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