The Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2008

Europe and South Asia Region Winners Announced:

Indra Sinha wins Best Book Award for Animal’s People
Tahmima Anam wins Best First Book Award for A Golden Age

An international judging panel has awarded the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book Award, Europe and South Asia Region, to Animal’s People by Indra Sinha (India). The Best First Book Award was awarded to A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam (Bangladesh). Each author wins £1,000 and goes into the next stage of the competition to find the overall Commonwealth Best Book and Best First Book, which are awarded £10,000 and £5,000 respectively.

The announcements of all eight regional winners took place on 13 March as part of Commonwealth Week – a festival of culture and celebration from the contemporary Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, awarded annually, aims to reward the best in Commonwealth fiction written in English, by both established and new writers, and to take their work to a wider audience.

The judging panel for the Europe and South Asia region was chaired by Professor Makarand Paranjape (India). He was joined by judges Professor Neloufer de Mel (Sri Lanka) and Donna Daley-Clarke (Britain).

Professor Makarand Paranjape, Chair of Judges, comments:

“The competition for the best book was stiff, but Animal’s People by Indra Sinha won out in the end for its fiercely original, zesty style, coupled with seriousness of theme and intent.

For the best first book, A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam, an evocative and sensitive narration of the creation of Bangladesh through the life of a courageous and unconventional mother, emerged as the winner.

Humane, compassionate, and consistently impressive in their use of language and technique, telling of major historical events through the viewpoints of underprivileged but resolute protagonists, both books are, ultimately, stories of survival and hope. This is why I believe they will appeal to a wide variety of readers.”

The announcement of the two winners took place at Goldsmiths, University of London. Upon winning his award, Indra Sinha, who was recently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2007 for Animal’s People, commented:

“It’s a great honour. I am delighted for Animal and his friends”.

Tahmima Anam, whose first book A Golden Age won the Best First Book Award, commented:

“I’m absolutely thrilled at this news; over the years, many of my most cherished authors have been winners of the Commonwealth Prize, and I’m deeply honored to have been given the chance to be counted among them. I’m particularly proud to be representing my country as the first regional winner from Bangladesh.”

In a unique aspect of the Prize, the two Europe and South Asia regional winners will be invited to take part in a week-long programme of readings, community activities and other public events alongside the final pan-Commonwealth judging, in South Africa in May 2008. They join other regional winners from Africa, Canada and the Caribbean, and South East Asia and South Pacific. The week’s programme will culminate in the announcement of the overall Best Book and Best First Book winners in a special ceremony as part of the 2008 Franschhoek Literary Festival, in the Cape Winelands District, on Sunday 18 May. The final programme is being run in partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture, South Africa, and the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

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