The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2010 Best Book Award goes to Rana Dasgupta for SOLO

Just In Just Out,13 April 2010


The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2010 Best Book Award goes to Rana Dasgupta for SOLO

New Delhi, 13 April 2010: SOLO by Rana Dasgupta, was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2010 Best Book. The award was given away by Dr Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for External Affairs at an award ceremony in New Delhi on 12 April 2010.

Solo is a kaleidoscopic novel about the life and daydreams of Ulrich, a one hundred-year-old man from Bulgaria. Set in a country that has belonged sometimes to Asia and sometimes to Europe, Solo is a book about lost roots, broken traditions and wasted ambitions – and the ways human beings overcome those failures.

In a press release by the Commonwealth Foundation, the judges said that they ‘chose Solo for its innovation, ambition, courage and effortless elegant prose. A remarkable novel of two halves, this is a book that takes risks and examines the places where grim reality and fantastical daydreams merge, diverge, and feed off each other. Solo, the judges concluded, is a tour de force, breathtaking in its boldness and narrative panache.’

Present on the occasion were Professor M G K Menon, President, India International Centre, Dr Mark Collins, Director, Commonwealth Foundation, Mr Charles Gray, Global Head of Financial Services, Macquarie Group, Hon Justice Nicholas Hasluck AM, Chair, Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and Kamalesh Sharma, Commonwealth Secretary-General. The evening was moderated by Barkha Dutt, Indian TV Journalist and Columnist.

Siddon Rock by Glenda Guest from Australia was declared of the winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2010 Best First Book.

The 2010 pan-Commonwealth panel of judges which decided the overall winners was chaired by Hon Justice Nicholas Hasluck AM (Chair of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize), and comprised of 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.

About the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

The Commonwealth Foundation established the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1987. The objectives of the prize are to promote new voices, reward achievement, encourage wider readership and greater literacy, thereby increasing appreciation of different cultures and building understanding between cultures. The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize is chaired by Justice Nicholas Hasluck, distinguished Australian author and leading judicial officer.


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.

About SOLO by Rana Dasgupta:

Solo is a kaleidoscopic novel about the life and daydreams of Ulrich, a one hundred-year-old man from Bulgaria.

Before the man lost his sight, he read a story in a magazine. A group of explorers came upon a community of parrots speaking the language of a society that had been wiped out in a recent catastrophe. Astonished by this discovery, they put the parrots in cages and sent them home so that linguists could record what remained of the lost language. But the parrots, already traumatised by the devastation they had recently witnessed, died on the way.

Wondering if, unlike these hapless parrots, he has any wisdom to leave to the world, Ulrich embarks on an epic armchair journey through the twists and turns of his country’s turbulent century – and through his own lifetime of lost love and failed chemistry.

Rana Dasgupta was born in Canterbury in 1971. His first book, Tokyo Cancelled (2005), was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. He lives in Delhi.

Praise for SOLO

‘A novel of exceptional, astonishing strangeness, Solo confirms Rana Dasgupta as the most unexpected and original Indian writer of his generation.’


Solo is … utterly unforgettable in its humanity.’ — KAPKA KASSABOVA, THE GUARDIAN

Solo is beautifully symphonic – elegiac and prophetic, underpinned by intelligence, compassion and a wonderfully unfettered imagination. It’s a necessary as well as a timely novel.’ — JOANNE HAYDEN, SUNDAY BUSINESS POST