Rana Dasgupta and Glenda Guest capped an exciting week of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in Delhi by being named as the winners in the Best Book and Best First Book. Dasgupta won for Solo while Guest won for Siddon Rock.
The prizes were announced in Delhi in an event held at India International Centre.
The judges chose Solo for its innovation, ambition, courage and effortlessly 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.
The judges praised Siddon Rock for its rich cast of odd characters and blending of the everyday with fantasy. Behind every door in town lurk secret desires and wild imaginings. The novel, they concluded, deftly delves into the hauntings and disjunctions of settler Australia, and in its fable-like quality captures the laconic mannerisms of the Australian outback.
Both books, the judges noted, showed how magic, fantasy and creativity can burst out in the most apparently mundane of lives and places.
Following a week of intense judging in Delhi, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, organised by the Commonwealth Foundation and supported by the Macquarie Group Foundation, has once again propelled two rising stars into the literary spotlight. This is the first major prize the two writers have won. As highly acclaimed new international authors, Dasgupta and Guest now join some of the biggest names in modern fiction in winning the Prize, including Louis de Bernieres, Vikram Seth and Andrea Levy.
Eight finalists from different regions of the Commonwealth made it to the rigorous final stage in India this week. While their books underwent the close scrutiny of the judges, the writers went head-to-head in a series of public events, readings and visits to schools, colleges and community projects.
In its 24th year, the critically acclaimed Commonwealth Writers’ Prize offers an exceptional opportunity for new writers to demonstrate their talent and for authors already on the literary scene to enhance their reputation. The Best First Book winner claims £5,000 while the writer of the Best Book wins £10,000.
Commenting today, Director of the Commonwealth Foundation and head of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, Mark Collins, said: “I congratulate the winners for their outstanding books and extraordinary literary talent. The two books chosen by the judges are ones that take us on unexpected journeys and challenge our conventional assumptions. The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize leads the way in spotting new literary icons and promoting literacy as a way to empower people and improve life chances. I am proud that the Commonwealth Foundation is helping to take these works to a global audience to enrich the lives of millions.”
Nicholas Hasluck, Chair of the judging panel said, “The winning books are groundbreaking in taking readers outside their usual comfort zone. Bringing new social and political realities to a wider audience, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize is truly unique in advancing cross-cultural collaboration, dialogue and understanding. It has been an honour and a delight to reward such exceptional and powerful storytelling.” he said, "You want to now about a place, read its literature."
David Clarke, Chairman of the Macquarie Group Foundation, the main sponsor of the Prize, commented,
"These compelling works by Rana Dasgupta and Glenda Guest rightly deserve to be acknowledged internationally. The Macquarie Group Foundation is delighted to support the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in recognising great literature and new literary talent; we congratulate the winners and wish all the authors who have taken part this year every success in the future."
Dasgupta was born in Canterbury in the UK and now lives in New Delhi. His first book, Tokyo Cancelled, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Guest grew up in Western Australia and currently lives in Australia’s Blue Mountains. She teaches at Macquarie and Griffith Gold Coast universities.
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.
The finalists for Best Book and Best First Book in each of the four Commonwealth Regions: Africa, Caribbean and Canada, South Asia and Europe, and South East Asia and Pacific were:
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubeni from Nigeria won Best First Book for I Do Not Come to You by Chance and Marié 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.
The 2010 pan-Commonwealth panel of judges which decided the overall winners was chaired by 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 New Delhi-based local judge Makarand Paranjape, twice regional chair of the Prize.
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