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Shortlists for Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2009

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2009
Organised by the Commonwealth Foundation

with the support of the Macquarie Group Foundation

Regional shortlists announced

The shortlists for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book and Best First Book have been announced today in London.

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, a much valued and sought-after award, aims to reward the best Commonwealth fiction written in English, by both established and new writers, and to take their works to a global audience.

Two regional winners from the shortlisted authors, each for Best Book and Best First Book from each of the four global areas will be announced on 11 March 2009. These winners then enter the final phase of the competition and go on to compete for overall Best Book and Best First Book awards. The four regional areas are South East Asia and the Pacific; Europe and South Asia; Canada and the Caribbean and Africa.

The two overall winners, chosen by an international panel of six judges coming together in New Zealand, will be announced at an Awards Ceremony on 16 May at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival (AWRF).

Each of the regional winners will be invited to take part in a week-long series of community events and public readings around New Zealand alongside the final judging in New Zealand, culminating in the announcement of the two overall winners for Best First Book and Best Book on May 16. The shortlisted finalists will be included in the programme for the 2009 Auckland Writers & Readers Festival. All Commonwealth Writers’ sessions and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Awards ceremony will be free to the general public.

Each regional winner receives £1,000. The overall Best Book winner will receive £10,000 and the overall Best First Book winner will receive £5,000.


Best Book Award: South East Asia and the South Pacific

Aravind Adiga/Between the Assassinations/Picador India/Australia

Helen Garner/The Spare Room /Text Publishing/Australia

Joan London/The Good Parents /Vintage/Australia

Paula Morris/Forbidden Cities/Penguin New Zealand

Christos Tsiolkas/The Slap /Allen & Unwin/Australia

Tim Winton/Breath /Hamish Hamilton/Australia

Best First Book Award: South East Asia and the South Pacific

Aravind Adiga/The White Tiger /Atlantic Books /Australia

Nam Le/The Boat Hamish Hamilton/Australia

Mo Zhi Hong/The Year of the Shanghai Shark/Penguin /NZ

Bridget Van der Zijpp/Misconduct Victoria University Press/NZ

Preeta Samarasan/Evening is the Whole Day/Fourth Estate/Malaysia

Ashley Sievwright/The Shallow End Clouds of Magellan//Australia

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.’

Best Book Award : Europe and South Asia

Chris Cleave/The Other Hand /Sceptre /UK

Shashi Deshpande /The Country of Deceit /Penguin /India

Philip Hensher /The Northern Clemency /Fourth Estate /UK

Jhumpa Lahiri /Unaccustomed Earth /Bloomsbury Publishing/UK

David Lodge /Deaf Sentence /Harvill Secker /UK

Salman Rushdie /The Enchantress of Florence /Random House/UK

Best First Book Award: Europe and South Asia

Sulaiman Addonia /The Consequences of Love /Chatto & Windus /UK

Daniel Clay /Broken /HarperCollins /UK

Joe Dunthorne /Submarine/Random House /UK

Mohammed Hanif/A Case of Exploding Mangoes/Vintage Pakistan

Murzaban F. Shroff /Breathless in Bombay/St. Martin’s Griffin/India

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.’

Best Book Award: Canada and the Caribbean

Marina Endicott/Good to a Fault/Freehand Books/Canada

Kenneth J Harvey/Blackstrap Hawco Random House Canada/Canada

Nino Ricci/The Origin of Species/Doubleday Canada/Canada

Jacob Ross/Pynter Bender/Fourth Estate/Grenada

Jaspreet Singh/Chef/Véhicule Press/Canada

Fred Stenson/The Great Karoo/Doubleday Canada/Canada

Best First Book Award: Canada and the Caribbean

Theanna Bischoff/Cleavage/NeWest Press/Canada

Mark Blagrave/Silver Salts/Cormorant Books/Canada

Craig Boyko/Blackouts/McClelland and Stewart/Canada

Nila Gupta/The Sherpa and other Fictions Sumach Press/Canada

Pasha Malla/The Withdrawal Method/ House of Anansi Press/Canada

Joan Thomas/Reading By Lightning/Goose Lane Editions/Canada

Padma Viswanathan/The Toss of a Lemon/Random House,Canada/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.’

Best Book Award: Africa

Damon Galgut/The Imposter /Penguin Books/South Africa

Tim Keegan/My Life with the Duvals/Umuzi/South Africa

Mandla Langa/The Lost Colours of Picador Africa/South Africa

/the Chameleon

Sindiwe Magona/Beauty’s Gift /Kwela Books/South Africa

Zoë Wicomb/The One That Got Away/Umuzi/South Africa

Best First Book Award: Africa

Uwem Akpan/Say You‘re One of Them/Abacus/Nigeria

Jane Bennett/Porcupine/Kwela Books/South Africa

Jassy Mackenzie/Random Violence/Umuzi/South Africa

Chris Marnewick/Shepherds and Butchers/Umuzi/South Africa

Sue Rabie/Boston Snowplough Human & Rousseau/South Africa

Megan Voysey-Braig/Till We Can Keep an Animal/Jacana Media/South Africa

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.

Notes to editors

1./The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize is organised and funded by the Commonwealth Foundation with the support of the Macquarie Group Foundation. The Prize, now in its 23rd year, celebrates cutting-edge fiction across the four regions of the Commonwealth: Africa; Canada and the Caribbean; Europe and South Asia and South East Asia and the South Pacific. From these regions, the overall winners for the Best Book, worth £10,000 and Best First Book, worth £5,000, are chosen.

2./The Commonwealth Foundation is an intergovernmental body working to help civil society organisations promote democracy, development and cultural understanding in 53 Commonwealth countries. The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize is part of the Culture Programme of the Commonwealth Foundation.

3./The Macquarie Group Foundation is one of Australia’s leading philanthropic foundations. In the year to 31 March 2008, the Macquarie Group Foundation together with Macquarie Group staff donated $A23 million to more than 800 not-for-profit organisations around the world. It is the philanthropic arm of Macquarie Group Limited, which is a global provider of banking, financial, advisory, investment and funds management services.

The overall winners will be decided by an international panel of judges comprising of the four regional chairs, the Chair of the Prize, Judge Nicholas Hasluck, and a representative from New Zealand.

The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony held at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival Saturday May 16 at the Aotea Centre in Auckland 7.30pm. This event will be free to the general public.


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