Authors start race to win 24th Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

Authors start race to win 24th Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

Winners to be announced in Delhi, India on 12 April 2010.
The race to win the coveted titles of Best Book and Best First Book in the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize has begun. It was launched at the Jaipur Literary Festival where competitors learnt that the winners of the 24th year of the prize will be announced in Delhi, India on 12 April.

The final programme, starting on 7 April in Delhi, will bring together the eight finalists from the different regions and their corresponding judges for a celebration of literature which will include discussions with the authors, readings and community and public events. The final round of judging will take place in Delhi before the winners of the two categories of Overall Best Book and Best First Book are announced. The Best First Book winner claims 5,000 British Pounds while the writer of the Best Book wins 10,000 British Pounds.

The Prize is presented by the Commonwealth Foundation with support from the Macquarie Group Foundation and the winning ceremony is held in a different country each year.

India has embraced the Commonwealth in 2010 as it looks forward to also hosting October’s Commonwealth Games.

The Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, Mark Collins, said, “The final programme of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize comes in an important year for India at the heart of the modern Commonwealth. The Prize fires the starting pistol for a year of cultural celebration that will culminate in the Commonwealth Games. October will see the top athletes in the world going head to head on the racetrack, but in April, the finest literary talent of our two billion people will be equally as keen to take first prize.”

Key literary figures and previous prize winners will also be present during the final stages of the competition. Acclaimed writer Vikram Chandra, who won the Best First Book in 1996 for Red Earth, Pouring Rain, and has since been the subject of bidding wars between several international publishers, said of the Prize, “The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize is coming back to India, bringing conversations, arguments, controversy, great books and a feast of literary pleasures.”

David Clarke, Chairman of the Macquarie Group Foundation, the main sponsor of the Prize, commented: “In the fifth year of Macquarie Group Foundation’s support of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, we are very pleased the winner will be announced in India, a country with an extremely distinguished literary history. Past entrants from all over the Commonwealth have exhibited consistently high standards and we’re sure 2010 will continue to present works of lasting and world-class merit. ”

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize aims to reward the best of Commonwealth fiction written in English, by both established and new writers, and to take their works to a global audience. Winning the prize means not only greater commercial success for the winners, but reaching wider audiences around the world. 2008 Best First Book winner, Tahmima Anam from Bangladesh, commented, “I am immensely grateful to the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, which has given me a kind of global exposure I could only have dreamed of. It is a great honour for a first-time novelist, and I am especially grateful that the story of the Bangladesh War has now, thanks to the prize, been read all over the world.”

— Ends —

Notes to Editors

1. The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, established in 1987, is organised and funded by the Commonwealth Foundation with the support of the Macquarie Group Foundation. The Commonwealth Foundation is an intergovernmental body working to help civil society organisations promote democracy, development and cultural understanding in Commonwealth countries.

2. The Macquarie Group Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Macquarie Group Limited, a global provider of banking, financial, advisory, investment and fund management services. The Foundation is one of the leading benefactors to the community sector and in the year to 31 March 2009, together with Macquarie Group staff, it donated $A26 million to more than 900 not-for-profit organisations around the world.

3. The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize final programme is organised by the Commonwealth Foundation and Siyahi, India’s leading literary consultancy. Siyahi will organise a series of literary events leading to the final announcement of the Prize. Siyahi promotes varied forms of literature and specialises in planning and executing workshops, festivals, book-readings, plays and performances.

4. Every year, prizes are given for the Best Book and Best First Book, valued at 1,000 British Pounds, in each of the four Commonwealth Regions: Africa, Caribbean and Canada, South Asia and Europe, and South East Asia and the Pacific. From these regions, the overall winner for the Best Book and Best First Book prizes are chosen. The 2009 judges are:

Elinor Sisulu (South Africa) – Chairperson
Ajoa K V Yeboah-Afari (Ghana)
Dan Ojwang (Kenya)

Caribbean and Canada
Antonia MacDonald-Smythe (Grenada) – Chairperson
Joan Thomas (Canada)
Brendan de Caires (Guyana)

South Asia and Europe
Muneeza Shamsie (Pakistan) – Chairperson
Pablo Mukherjee (India)
Stephanos Stephanides (Cyprus)

South East Asia and Pacific
Anne Brewster (Australia) – Chairperson
Kee Thuan Chye (Malaysia)
Alice Te Punga Somerville (New Zealand)

5. The final programme of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize will run from 7 to 12 April 2010.

6. The 2010 pan-Commonwealth panel of judges which will decide the overall winners is chaired by Hon Justice Nicholas Hasluck AM (Chair of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize), and comprises the four regional chairpersons: Elinor Sisulu (Africa); Antonia MacDonald-Smythe (Caribbean and Canada); Muneeza Shamsie (South Asia and Europe); and Anne Brewster (South East Asia and Pacific), along with the Delhi-based local judge Makarand Paranjape, twice regional chair of the Prize.

7. The �10,000 Best Book Prize in 2009 was awarded to Australian writer Christos Tsiolkas for The Slap. The Best First Book Prize of �5,000 went to Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif for A Case of Exploding Mangoes. The prizes were announced at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival in New Zealand. The 2008 Overall winner was Lawrence Hill of Canada for The Book of Negroes.

8. For further information about the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize:

Mita Kapur
Tel: + 91 141 2245908

Outside India:
Marcie Shaoul
Communications Manager
Commonwealth Foundation
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7747 6582

General information:
Fareena Chaudhry
Commonwealth Foundation
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7747 6501