Monday, February 12, 2007

Commonwealth Prize Shortlists Unveiled

The shortlists for the Commonwealth Writers' prize have been announced.

I'm not going to cut and paste the whole thing, but - the nominees for Best Book for Europe and South-Asia (strange grouping but perhaps the most interesting!) are:
Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra (India)
Miss Webster and Chérif by Patricia Duncker (UK)
The Sweet and Simple Kind by Yasmine Gooneratne (Sri Lanka)
Carry Me Down, by M J Hyland (UK)
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (UK)
The Perfect Man by Naeem Murr (UK)
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson (UK)
The nominations for best first book for the same region(s):
The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther (UK)
The Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin (UK)
This Time of Dying by Reina James (UK)
Giraffe by J M Ledgard (UK)
Londonstani by Gautam Malkani (UK)
In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar (UK)
The Amnesia Clinic by James Scudamore (UK)
Some of the titles will be familiar to you already from previous prize and best book lists. More comment in the Guardian.

The South-East Asia and and South Pacific region is entirely dominated by writers from New Zealand and Australia. Great for them. Sad for us. Maybe next year, huh?


Was ping-ponging emails about things literary up and down with Deepika in Singapore this morning, before the rest of the world was awake (insomnia in my case; the need to be in the TV studio in hers, I suppose). She writes:
Went to take a look at the judging panel….

And found it no surprise that South Asia – where practically every 10th person is writing a book is grossly under-represented….

And South-East Asia ignored in its entirety….

If we want the representation, we need the judging panel that feel for our literature. These name don’t even ring a bell….

Professor Angela Smith (Europe and South Asia region) teaches postcolonial and twentieth/twenty-first century literature at the University of Stirling in Scotland. She was a founder member of the Centre of Commonwealth Studies at Stirling and has been the director of it for 15 years. Her books include: East African Writing in English (1989), Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf: A Public of Two (1999), and Katherine Mansfield: A Literary Life (2001). She edited, with a critical introduction and notes, Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea for Penguin (1997) and Katherine Mansfield: Selected Stories (2002) for Oxford University Press. She is a past president of the British Australian Studies Association and lectures regularly for the Scottish Universities International Summer School.

Dr Christine Prentice (South East Asia and South Pacific region) is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of English, University of Otago, New Zealand. She was previously a member of the regional judging panel for the Prize in 2005. She specialises in New Zealand and Pacific literatures, postcolonial literatures and theory, critical and cultural theory and comparative indigenous literatures. She joined the Editorial Board of New Literatures Review in 2004, the Board of Studies, Master of Indigenous Studies, University of Otago in 2003 and the Maori and Pacific Islands Advisory Board in 2004.
It's a point the organisers of the Prize should take seriously into account, although I can remember there being more Asian representation on the panel in past years. (Meira Chand was a recent judge, for example.)

Mind you, what South-East Asian novels might have been contenders for this year's prize anyway? Can't think of one!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Problem is that SE Asians have nothing much to write _about_. The weather's boring, the area's peaceful,the people are nice.. that makes for a really boring book. If you lived in say Iraq, now that would make a gripping novel.