Rana Dasgupta wins Commonwealth best book award
British-Indian author Rana Dasgupta, who has made Delhi his home for the last nine years. Rana Dasgupta on Monday won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for 2010 for his epic tale Solo set in Communist and post-Communist Bulgaria while Australian Glenda Guest’s Siddon Rock picked up the Best First Book prize at the award’s grand finale ceremony here on Monday for his second novel Solo. Cheered by the city’s literary set at a function held in the evening, the 38-year-old beat three other finalists to win the prize money of $10,000.
The contenders who lost out were South African author Marie Heese, nominated for her novel The Double Crown, Canadian Michael Crummey (Galore), and Samoan Albert Wendt (The Adventures of Vela).
The ‘Best First Book’ prize went to Glenda Guest from Australia for her book Siddon Rock, which began as part of the author’s PhD on small-town Australia. Guest beat four other finalists, including Pakistani writer Daniyal Mueenuddin, who was nominated for the much-acclaimed In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.
British-Indian author Rana Dasgupta on Monday won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for 2010 for his epic tale Solo set in Communist and post-Communist Bulgaria while Australian Glenda Guest’s Siddon Rock picked up the Best First Book prize at the award’s grand finale ceremony here.
Mr. Dasgupta, whose book was earlier adjudged the best in the South Asia and Europe region, beat off stiff competition from the three other regions to win the 10,000 British Pounds as prize.
Minister of State for External Affair Shashi Tharoor gave away the awards at the event held for the first time in Delhi, the venue for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in October.
“I don’t see the Prize in any way as a celebration of colonialism or an acknowledgement of the historical past but surely as one that binds us together through language,” said Tharoor who was a recipeint of the prize around 20 years ago.
Similarly, Glenda Guest won the 5,000 British Pounds as prize seeing off competition from seven regional winners of the Best First Book from Africa, the Caribbean and Canada, South Asia-Europe, South East Asia-Pacific regions.
The panel of judges that decided the overall winners included Chair of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Justice Nicholas Hasluck, Elinor Sisulu Antonia MacDonald Smythe Muneeza Shamsie Anne Brewster and Makarand Paranjpaye, the representative from India.
Born in the U.K., 38-year old Mr. Dasgupta, whose first book Tokyo Cancelled was shortlisted for the 2005 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, has been based in Delhi for the last nine years.
Solo is Mr. Dasgupta’s second book and is a story that encompasses a century of Communist and post-Communist regimes in Bulgaria, told from the perspective of a near centenarian man.
Ms. Guest’s Siddon Rock won the award over other first timers — Nigerian author Adaobi Tricia Nwaubeni’s I Do Not Come to You by Chance, Canadian debut novelist Shandi Mitchell’s Under This Unbroken Sky and Pakistani author Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.
The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards, is presented annually to reward the best Commonwealth fiction written in English by both established and new writers.
The Prize, instituted in 1987 by the Commonwealth Foundation, covers the Commonwealth regions of Africa, the Caribbean and Canada, Europe, South Asia and South East Asia and Pacific.
The eight winners that emerged from the regional judging were announced in March and were in Delhi for the final phase of the competition.
“I cannot breathe,” said Ms. Guest after her win was announced. “This is so out of my realm of thought,” said the author of the best first book accepting her award.
Meanwhile, Mr. Dasgupta who looked dapper in a black suit, thanked his parents who he said supported his writings.
Previous winners of the Prize include Vikram Chandra, Jhumpa Lahiri, Mohammed Hanif, V.S. Naipaul, J.M. Coetzee, Indra Sinha, Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood among others.
Guest was as surprised as Dasgupta to have won the 5,000 British Pound for First Novel award. “I’m standing here like a stunned mullet,” she said.
“It’s not about the money, it’s not about the credit,” she continued, “it’s about being given verification that this is any good, that I can actually write.”
She joins stellar list of winners since the prizes were launched by the Commonwealth Foundation in 1987, including Peter Carey, Vikram Seth and Sarah Hall.