Commonwealth Writers' Prize

The Commonwealth Writers' Prize is organised and funded by the Commonwealth Foundation. It was first awarded in 1987. The Commonwealth Foundation is an intergovernmental organisation working in the 53 countries of the Commonwealth of Nations. The aim of this book award is to encourage new Commonwealth fiction, and to ensure that works of merit reach a wider audience outside their country of origin.

The Prize covers the Commonwealth regions of Africa, Europe and South Asia, The Caribbean and Canada, and South East Asia and the South Pacific. In Each of the four regions two prizes of £1,000 are awarded for the Best Book and for the Best First Book. Eight regional winners’ books are then judged by the A pan-Commonwealth panel. Authors win £10,000 for the overall Best Book and £5,000 for the Best First Book. Writers and judges come together in a final literary programme in a different Commonwealth country each year.

For previous years Commonwealth Prize Winners go to www.literaryawards.co.uk/commonwealthwriters.html

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2011 Winners

Best Book for The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

Best First Book - for A Man Melting by Craig Cliff -

The 2011 regional prize winners are:

Africa:
Best Book:
The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone)
Best First Book: Happiness is a four-letter word by Cynthia Jele (South Africa)

Caribbean and Canada:
Best Book:
Room by Emma Donoghue (Canada)
Best First Book: Bird Eat Bird by Katrina Best (Canada)

South Asia and Europe:
Best Book
: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (UK)
Best First Book: Sabra Zoo by Mischa Hiller (UK)

South East Asia and Pacific:
Best Book
: That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott (Australia)
Best First Book: A Man Melting by Craig Cliff (New Zealand)

Siddon Rock

Commonwealth Writers Prize 2010 Winners


Siddon Rock by Australian author Glenda Guest (Vintage) is the winner of the ₤5000 (A$8,250) best first book award in this year's Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Solo by Rana Dasgupta (Fourth Estate) was the winner of the overall Commonwealth Writers Prize for best book. The awards were announced in New Delhi.

Guest, whose debut novel has also been longlisted for the Miles Franklin award in Australia, said the award was ‘verification that this is any good, that I can actually write'.

As she is in her sixties there is hope for all we late starters!

2010 Regional Winners

Africa
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubeni from Nigeria won Best First Book for I Do Not Come to You by Chance and Marie Heese from South Africa won Best Book for The Double Crown.
Caribbean and Canada
Shandi Mitchell from Canada won Best First Book for Under This Unbroken Sky and Michael Crummey from Canada won Best Book for Galore.
South Asia and Europe
Daniyal Mueenuddin from Pakistan won Best First Book for In Other Rooms, Other Wonders and Rana Dasgupta from the UK won Best Book for Solo
South East Asia and Pacific
Glenda Guest from Australia won Best First Book for Siddon Rock and Albert Wendt from Samoa won Best Book for The Adventures of Vela.

 

2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

    2009 Commonwealth Book of the Year Winner

    The SlapMay 16th - Australian author Christos Tsiolkas has won the 2009 Best Book prize at the prestigious Commonwealth Writers' Awards. Tsiolkas won for his work The Slap, a tale about middle-class suburban Australia and its notions of child-rearing and acceptable behaviour.

    The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. Country: Australia. Publisher: Allen and Unwin.

    At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own. This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event. In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye on to that which connects us all: the modern family and domestic life in the twenty-first century. The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires. What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity - all the passions and conflicting beliefs - that family can arouse.

    A Case of Exploding Mangoes2009 Best First Book Award Winner

     

    Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif won the Best First Book Award for A Case of Exploding Mangoes, which takes a spin on why a Hercules C130 aircraft crashed on August 17, 1988, killing Pakistan's military dictator General Zia ul Haq.

      A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif. Country: Pakistan. Publisher:Jonathan Cape.

      John le Carré "Witty, elegant, and deliciously anarchic. Hanif has a lovely eye and an even better ear."
      edition. FT 'Irreverent, imaginative and playful' edition. Guardian
      Cadet life is entertainingly evoked, overflowing with japes, jerkoffs, hashish highs and liquored lows...The Independent `entertaining.... darkly comic.... Zia's limited intelligence and unlimited paranoia are portrayed with great glee.... edition.

    Regional Winners & Shortlists Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2009

    Europe and South Asia | South East Asia and the Pacific | Canada and the Caribbean | Africa

    Award Tragic Comment 'Commonwealth Regional Winners Shine'>>

    note regarding listed books. The links below connect to various data-bases for further infomation as the titles are not globally available.

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    EUROPE AND SOUTH ASIA

    2009 Winners

    Best Book

    Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. Country: UK. Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing.

    Unaccustomed Earth'Lahiri's enormous gifts as a storyteller are on full display in this collection: the gorgeous, effortless prose; the characters haunted by regret, isolation, loss, and tragedies big and small; and most of all, a quiet, emerging sense of humanity.' Khaled Hosseini 'Reading her stories is like watching time-lapse nature videos of different plants, each with its own inherent growth cycle, breaking through the soil, spreading into bloom or collapsing back to earth.' The New York Times Book Review 'Reading her stories is hypnotizing - like falling into a dream where colors are brighter, smells sharper and time moves more slowly than in real life.' People 'Lahiri, a master storyteller-who, along with Alice Munro, has arguably done more to reinvigorate the once-moribund form than any other contemporary English-language writer-comes full circle with this book, imbued as it is with a sense of passage, of life and death and rebirth.' Vogue

    The New York Times Book Review (April 2008)
    'Splendid . . . Reading her stories is like watching time-lapse nature videos of different plants, each with its own inherent growth cycle, breaking through the soil, spreading into bloom or collapsing back to earth.'

    Best First Book

    A Case of Exploding Mangoes, by Mohammed Hanif. Country: Pakistan. Publisher: Jonathan Cape.

    A Case of Exploding MangoesJohn le Carré "Witty, elegant, and deliciously anarchic. Hanif has a lovely eye and an even better ear."
    edition. FT 'Irreverent, imaginative and playful' edition. Guardian
    Cadet life is entertainingly evoked, overflowing with japes, jerkoffs, hashish highs and liquored lows... The Independent
    `entertaining.... darkly comic.... Zia's limited intelligence and unlimited paranoia are portrayed with great glee.... edition.

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      Best Book Other Shortlisted

      The Other Hand | The Northern Clemency |Deaf Sentence | The Enchantress of Florence | The End of Sleep

      • The Other Hand by Chris Cleave. Country: UK. Publisher: Sceptre.
      • The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher. Country: UK. Publisher: Fourth Estate.
      • Deaf Sentence by David Lodge. Country: UK. Publisher: Harvill Secker.
      • The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie. Country: UK. Publisher: Random House.
      • The End of Sleep by Rowan Somerville. Country: UK. Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
      • The Country of Deceit by Shashi Deshpande. Country: India. Publisher: Penguin India
      • Best First Book- Other Shortlisted

        The Consequences of Love | Broken | Submarine | Breathless in Bombay

        • The Consequences of Love by Sulaiman Addonia. Country: UK. Publisher: Chatto and Windus.
        • Broken by Daniel Clay. Country: UK. Publisher: Harper Collins.
        • Submarine by Joe Dunthorne. Country: UK. Publisher: Hamish Hamilton.
        • Breathless in Bombay by Murzban Shroff. Country: India. Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin.

        The judging panel for the Europe and South Asia region was chaired by Professor Makarand Paranjape (India). He was joined by judges, Dr Durre Ahmed (Pakistan) and Dr Alex Tickell (UK).

        Professor Paranjape commented:

        ‘What distinguished this year’s entries was a preponderance of well-established authors including Salman Rushdie, Philip Hensher, Shashi Deshpande and Jhumpa Lahiri in the Best Book category and some very talented new voices such as Mohammed Hanif and Joe Dunthorne in the Best First Book category. Though most of the short-listed authors either live in the UK or are British subjects, they are actually quite diverse in their origins.’

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        SOUTH EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

        Best Book Winner

        The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. Country: Australia. Publisher: Allen and Unwin.

        The Slap

        At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own. This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event. In this remarkable novel, Christos Tsiolkas turns his unflinching and all-seeing eye on to that which connects us all: the modern family and domestic life in the twenty-first century. The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires. What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity - all the passions and conflicting beliefs - that family can arouse.

        About the Author

        Christos Tsiolkas is the author of three novels: Loaded, which was made into the feature film Head-On, The Jesus Man and Dead Europe, which won the 2006 Age Fiction Prize and the 2006 Melbourne Best Writing Award. He is also a playwright, essayist and screen writer. He lives in Melbourne.

        Between the Assassinations| The Spare Room | The Good Parents | Forbidden Cities | Breath

        Other Shortlisted

        • Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga. Country: Australia. Publisher: Atlantic Books.
        • The Spare Room by Helen Garner. Country: Australia. Publisher: Text Publishing
        • The Good Parents by Joan London. Country: Australia. Publisher: Random House Australia.
        • Forbidden Cities by Paula Morris. Country: New Zealand. Publisher: Penguin New Zealand
        • Breath by Tim Winton. Country: Australia. Publisher: Picador.
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          Winner Best First Book

          The Year of the Shanghai Shark by Mo Zhi Hong. Country New Zealand. Publisher: Penguin NZ.

          The Year of the Shanghai Shark

          Hai Long is a teenager living in the Chinese city of Dalian. It's the year of the SARS epidemic in China. This is a modern China that's eye-catchingly contemporary. Hai Long and his mates drink Coca-Cola and eat American fast food. They watch American NBA basketball on television and argue whether Michael Jordan is the greatest player ever. They go to English language lessons and hilariously mock Karl, their hopelessly naive Canadian teacher, who drinks too much beer and is just dying to get away to Thai beaches to hang out with German babes. This is also the year in which Hai Long leaves school to learn the unlikely trade of his uncle. 'Uncle' has many books, but he's actually a highly successful professional pick-pocket who specialises in robbing dazed foreigners - Koreans and Japanese as well as Europeans - and makes special trips to Beijing for the purpose. As we meet a series of colourful characters in Hai Long's life and hang out with him and his mates, we also watch the teenager being trained in the ways of the pick-pocket. This is a sophisticated story of China's new generation severing ties with their cultural past, and rich with a fascinating array of colourful characters who frequent their inner-city apartment block - from Gambler Dang, a high stakes Ma Jiang player, to Fish, a peasant from the countryside and an unlikely friend, and finally Uncle, whose shadowy occupation exerts an irresistible pull on Hai Long's life...An accessible yet deceptively clever novel from an electric new voice.

          About the Author

          Mo Zhi Hong was born in Singapore but grew up in Taiwan, Canada, China, the United States of America and New Zealand. During the dot-com boom of the 1990s, he worked as a software developer in New York City, and later as an English teacher in north-east China, before recently returning to New Zealand. He is 34 years old. This is his first novel.

          Other Shortlisted

          The White Tiger | The Boat | Misconduct | Evening is the Whole Day | The Shallow End

          • The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. Country: Australia. Publisher: Atlantic Books.
          • The Boat by Nam Le. Country: Australia. Publisher: Hamish Hamilton.
          • Misconduct by Bridget van der Zijpp. Country: New Zealand. Publisher: Victoria University Press.
          • Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan. Country: Malaysia. Publisher: Fourth Estate.
          • The Shallow End by Ashley Sievwright. Country: Australia. Publisher: Clouds of Magellan

          The judging panel for the South East Asia and the South Pacific region was chaired by Dr Anne Brewster (Australia). She was joined by judges Dr Lydia Wevers (New Zealand) and Dr Boey Kim Cheng (Singapore).

          Dr Brewster commented:

          ‘The unusually high number of entries from acclaimed and well-established writers in this year’s Best Book category is reflected in the outstanding shortlist which includes Helen Garner, Joan London, Tim Winton, Christos Tsiolkas and the Man Booker award-winning author Aravind Adiga. Alongside these names is an impressive collection of short stories by Paula Morris (Ngati Wai). Adiga, in a year of abundance, is also shortlisted in the Best First Book. The judges are pleased to note several new authors from Asia in this year’s entries in the First Book category, two of whom are shortlisted.

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          AFRICA

    Best Book- Winner

    Lost Colours of the Chameleon by Mandla Langa. Country: South Africa. Publisher: Picador.

    The lost colours of the Chameleon is set on the fictitious island of Bangula in the Indian Ocean - an island populated by an indigenous community that coexists uneasily with Creoles, mainly descendants of ancient Portuguese colonizers. The half-a-million inhabitants live under the twin shadows of an impending cyclone and an outbreak of the blood plague. The novel follows the story of the Colonel Gondo, a patriarch who is the father of the newly reformed nation of Bangula, and the biological father of three sons (one legitimate and two illegitimate). Following their father's death, the Colonel's three sons become embroiled in a bitter succession struggle. Abioseh succeeds the Colonel, but has to contend with the Colonel's love-child, a boy called Zebulon. Zebulon grows up embittered and poverty-stricken, with an aim of avenging his mother, Madu, who died of official neglect. Zebulon, Abioseh's half-brother, is popular among the people for the simple reason that he has made it his life's mission to comfort the bereaved, even strangers.Abioseh also has to contend with the Colonel's third son, Hieronymus Jerome, his childhood friend, who rises in the police ranks and becomes his head of security. However, Hieronymus also has ambitions of power - not so much to wield it conspicuously as to control the wielders of power, an eminence grise - who liaises with an undertaker to topple Abioseh and install Zebulon as leader of the island. This struggle for power is fuelled by the varying and personal motives of the Colonel's three sons, and reveals the fundamental divisions tearing apart the fragile nation.

    Best Book -Other Shortlisted

    The Impostor |

    • The Impostor by Damon Galgut. Country: South Africa. Publisher: Penguin.
    • My Life with the Duvals by Tim Keegan. Country: South Africa. Publisher: Umuzi.
    • Beauty’s Gift by Sindiwe Magona. Country: South Africa. Publisher: Kwela Books.
    • The One That Got Away by Zoe Wicomb. Country: South Africa. Publisher: Umuzi

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      Say You're One of Them

      Winner - Best First Book

      Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan. Country: Nigeria. Publisher: Abacus.

      'Say You're One of Them gives voice to its children in beautifully crafted prose and stunning detail. Uwem Akpan is a major new literary talent.' - Peter Godwin, author of Mukiwa 'Uwem Akpan writes with a politcal fierceness and a humanity so full of compassion it might just change the world. His is a burning talent.' Chris Abani, author of The Virgin of the Flames

      Review
      'SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM is an absorbing and, at times, disturbing read. Akpan gives voice to African child protagonists from different religious and cultural backgrounds. There is an energy that makes his book compelling . . . an unflinching collection' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

      Best First Book - Other Short listed

          The judging panel for the Africa region was chaired by Elinor Sisulu (South Africa). She was joined by judges Kole Omotoso (Nigeria) and Billy Karanja Kahora (Kenya).

          Elinor Sisulu commented:

          ‘Once again Africa’s publishing powerhouses, South Africa and Nigeria dominated the entries. Of over fifty entries received, only two were from Kenya and two from Ghana. There was an unusually high number of short story collections among the entries.

          CANADA AND CARIBBEAN

          Winner Best Book

          good_to_a-faultGood to a Faultgood_to_a_fault by Marina Endicott. Country: Canada. Publisher: Freehand Books.

          Absorbed in her own failings, Clara Purdy crashes her life into a sharp left turn, taking the young family in the other car along with her.  When bruises on the mother, Lorraine, prove to be late-stage cancer, Clara—against all habit and comfort—moves the three children and their terrible grandmother into her own house. We know what is good, but we don’t do it. In Good to a Fault, Clara decides to give it a try, and then has to cope with the consequences: exhaustion, fury, hilarity, and unexpected love. But she must question her own motives. Is she acting out of true goodness, or out of guilt? Most shamefully, has she taken over simply because she wants the baby for her own?  What do we owe in this life, and what do we deserve? This compassionate, funny, and fiercely intelligent novellooks at life and death through grocery-store reading glasses: being good, being at fault, and finding some balance on the precipice.

          About the Author

          Marina Endicott was born in Golden, BC, and grew up in Nova Scotia and Toronto. She now lives in Edmonton and teaches creative writing at the University of Alberta. Marina’s first novel, Open Arms, was nominated for the Amazon/Books In Canada First Novel award in 2002 and serialized on CBC Radio’s Between the Covers. Her stories have been featured in Coming Attractions and shortlisted for both the Journey Prize and the Western Magazine Awards. She’s had three plays produced and her long poem …+ read more

          Marina Endicott was born in Golden, BC, and grew up in Nova Scotia and Toronto. She now lives in Edmonton and teaches creative writing at the University of Alberta.

          Marina’s first novel, Open Arms, was nominated for the Amazon/Books In Canada First Novel award in 2002 and serialized on CBC Radio’s Between the Covers. Her stories have been featured in Coming Attractions and shortlisted for both the Journey Prize and the Western Magazine Awards. She’s had three plays produced and her long poem, The Policeman’s Wife, some letters, was shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards in 2006.  She is currently at work on a novel about the Belle Auroras, a sister-trio vaudeville act touring the Canadian prairies in 1909, as well as series of YA novels called Time in Hand.

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          Best Book -Other Shortlisted

          • Blackstrap Hawco by Kenneth J. Harvey. Country: Canada. Publisher: Random House Canada.
          • The Origin of Species by Nino Ricci. Country: Canada. Publisher: Doubleday Canada.
          • Pynter Bender by Jacob Ross. Country: Grenada. Publisher: Fourth Estate.
          • Chef by Jaspreet Singh. Country: Canada. Publisher: Véhicule Press.
          • The Great Karoo by Fred Stenson. Country: Canada. Publisher: Doubleday Canada.

          Winner Best First Book

          Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas. Country: Canada. Publisher: Goose Lane Editions.

          Lily Piper and her family live in an ephemeral world, due to collapse any moment when the Lord comes to pluck His faithful from the drought-ravaged Prairie. Lily tries to be ready, but she is restless, not the daughter she feels her mother wants. As she tries to invent herself, she conjures, too, an imagined past for her beloved father in an effort to understand him and the demons he battles.

          In her teens, Lily is sent to England to care for her grandmother and further explores the delicious question of who she might become. She falls in love with her adopted cousin, learns to experience life in all its ambiguity, and waits with the rest of England for the Second World War to start - until the news she has been dreading arrives on the doorstep, and she is called home to face a future she thought she had escaped.

          Reading by Lightning is a Bildungsroman of great wit and depth. Thomas's prose is wry and intimate, elegant and devastatingly funny. Her engrossing story of Lily Piper tells us something of how we can make sense of a future when the future is some-thing we can hardly imagine.

          Best First Book - Other Shortlisted

          • Cleavage by Theanna Bischoff. Country: Canada. Publisher: NeWest Press.
          • Silver Salts by Mark Blagrave. Country: Canada. Publisher: Cormorant Books.
          • Blackouts by Craig Boyco. Country: Canada. Publisher: McClelland and Stewart.
          • The Sherpa by Nila Gupta. Country: Canada. Publisher: Sumach Press.
          • The Withdrawal Method by Pasha Malla. Country: Canada. Publisher: House of Anansi Press
          • The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan. Country: Canada. Publisher: Random House Canada

          The judging panel for the Canada and the Caribbean region was chaired by Dr Michael Bucknor (Jamaica). He was joined by judges Nicholas Laughlin (Trinidad and Tobago) and Dr Pamela Banting (Canada).

          Dr Michael Bucknor commented:

          ‘In this year’s 93 entries, the panel found a high concentration of stories of suffering, immigration tales and historical narratives. We also discovered a very competitive field among both categories, but we were especially pleased with the giftedness displayed and the promise shown by the authors in the Best First Book category. For future competitions of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in this region, there will be no shortage of talent.’

      note: acknowledgement and thanks to robaroundbooks for the display of a number of the book images and researched links to African publishers above

      For previous years Commonwealth Prize Winners go to www.literaryawards.co.uk/commonwealthwriters.html

      budgetary_cuts_by_kev_parker

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