Shehan Karunatilaka, author of Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew has won the Commonwealth Book Prize. The winners were announced at the Hay Festival earlier this month. The £10,000 prize is awarded annually and celebrates the best of literature written across the commonwealth.
Margaret Busby, Chair of the Commonwealth Book Prize said of the winning title:
“This fabulously enjoyable read will keep you entertained and rooting for the protagonist until the very end, while delivering startling truths about cricket and about Sri Lanka. Narrated by a retired hard-drinking sports journalist on an obsessive quest for the mysterious Pradeep Mathew, who may just be Sri Lanka’s best all-time cricketer, it’s an insightful story about fact and gullibility, about world history, about friends and family; and it comes with this attestable guarantee: “If you’ve never seen a cricket match; if you have and it has made you snore; if you can’t understand why anyone would watch, let alone obsess over this dull game, then this is the book for you.” Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew sets the standard high for the new Commonwealth Book Prize, which aims to discover new talent and energise literary output in the different regions.”
Chinaman tells the story of an alcoholic journalist’s journey to track down a missing cricketer of the 1980’s. On winning the prize, Karunatilaka said:
“It’s incredible considering where the book began. I wasn’t certain that it would be published outside of Colombo when I was writing it. I was surprised to make it to the final five, considering how strong the Asia shortlist was. To win it is quite crazy. Now I just need to find a pub in Wales that serves arrack. It’s a privilege to be part of a global prize that has recognised so many great writers over the years. I feel deeply honoured.”
Emma Martin’s short story, Two Girls in a Boat took home the Commonwealth Short Story prize fund, beating regional winner, Anushka Jasraj’s Radio Story. You can read Radio Story, published by Granta here.