Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2009 - Shortlist

The shortlist for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2009 has been announced and we will know the eight regional winners in a few days.
Now, I would like to comment on the prize and on the shortlist. Four years ago Amitav Ghosh (the writer of, among others, Sea of Poppies, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and on my TBR list), withdrew from the competition criticizing the fact that only books written in English can enter the competion, thus ignoring books written in the vernacular languages. Salman Rushdie even wrote an angry essay called "Commonwealth Literature Does Not Exist", where he argues that literature is not an expression of nationality. As a matter of fact, looking at this shortlist, it is difficult to label writers. For what reason do you label The White Tiger as an Australian book and put him in the first section, instead of the second? Even though Adiga has dual citizenship, Indian and Australian, The White Tiger is an Indian book, no matter what you say. And what about Jhumpa Lahiri (writer of The Namesake)? She considers herself an American and that should be it. But then she could not enter the competition, so here you go, let's label her as an English writer (she might have English citizenship because she was born in London, even though she grew up in the States).

Best Book Award: South East Asia and the South Pacific
Aravind Adiga “Between the Assassinations” (India/Australia)
Helen Garner “The Spare Room “ (Australia)
Joan London “The Good Parents” (Australia)
Paula Morris “Forbidden Cities” (New Zealand)
Christos Tsiolkas “The Slap” (Australia)
Tim Winton “Breath” (Australia)

Best First Book Award: South East Asia and the South Pacific
Aravind Adiga “The White Tiger” (Australia)
Nam Le “The Boat” (Australia)
Mo Zhi Hong “The Year of the Shanghai Shark” (NZ)
Bridget Van der Zijpp “Misconduct” (NZ)
Preeta Samarasan “Evening is the Whole Day” (Malaysia)
Ashley Sievwright “The Shallow End Clouds of Magellan” (Australia)

Best Book Award : Europe and South Asia
Chris Cleave “The Other Hand” (UK)
Shashi Deshpande “The Country of Deceit” (India)
Philip Hensher “The Northern Clemency” (UK)
Jhumpa Lahiri “Unaccustomed Earth” (UK)
David Lodge “Deaf Sentence” (UK)
Salman Rushdie “The Enchantress of Florence” (UK)

Best First Book Award: Europe and South Asia
Sulaiman Addonia “The Consequences of Love” (UK)
Daniel Clay “Broken” UK
Joe Dunthorne “Submarine” (UK)
Mohammed Hanif “A Case of Exploding Mangoes” (Pakistan)
Murzaban F. Shroff “Breathless in Bombay” (India)

Best Book Award: Canada and the Caribbean
Marina Endicott “Good to a Fault” (Canada)
Kenneth J Harvey “Blackstrap Hawco” (Canada)
Nino Ricci “The Origin of Species (Canada)
Jacob Ross “Pynter Bender” (Grenada)
Jaspreet Singh “Chef” (Canada)
Fred Stenson “The Great Karoo” (Canada)

Best First Book Award: Canada and the Caribbean
Theanna Bischoff “Cleavage” (Canada)
Mark Blagrave “Silver Salts” (Canada)
Craig Boyko “Blackouts” (Canada)
Nila Gupta “The Sherpa and other Fictions” (Canada)
Pasha Malla “The Withdrawal Method” (Canada)
Joan Thomas “Reading By Lightning” (Canada)
Padma Viswanathan “The Toss of a Lemon” (Canada)

Best Book Award: Africa
Damon Galgut "The Imposter" (South Africa)
Tim Keegan "My Life with the Duvals" (South Africa)
Mandla Langa "The Lost Colours of the Chameleon" (South Africa)
Sindiwe Magona "Beauty’s Gift" (South Africa)
Zoë Wicomb "The One That Got Away" (South Africa)

Best First Book Award: Africa
Uwem Akpan "Say You‘re One of Them" (Nigeria)
Jane Bennett "Porcupine" (South Africa)
Jassy Mackenzie "Random Violence" (South Africa)
Chris Marnewick "Shepherds and Butchers" (South Africa)
Sue Rabie "Boston Snowplough" (South Africa)
Megan Voysey-Braig "Till We Can Keep an Animal" (South Africa)

My prediction:
Aravind Adiga only for The White Tiger, Jhumpa Lahiri over Salman Rushdie, A Case of Exploding Mangoes (Pakistan's long-awaited literary revenge over India) and Say You're One of Them for Africa's best first book (I haven't read it but it was on recommended books at Waterstone's, so it means it's got to be good).

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