Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka
This year, the Commonwealth Foundation honoured the best new work of writers in the Commonwealth with two prestigious awards for best short story and best novel.
Sri Lanka and New Zealand were the lucky winners, with the Commonwealth Book Prize awarded to Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka for his debut novel Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Matthew
, while New Zealand writer Emma Martin picked up the short story prize for Two Girls in a Boat
"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," Karunatilaka said
Karunatilaka’s novel tells the story of a retired sports journalist who decides to track down Pradeep Matthew, a famous cricketer whom he considers to be the best of all time.
Chair of the Commonwealth Book Prize, Margaret Busby, described
the novel as a "fabulously enjoyable read."
"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," the author said
Short story prize winner Emma Martin hails from New Zealand’s capital city Wellington, and was equally surprised to receive her award, describing it as a "wonderful and unexpected honour."
"Writing can be a solitary business, so to receive any award is immensely encouraging," she said
Organisers believe that this award could be the author's ticket to attracting the attention of a larger international audience.
"There were so many brilliant short stories on our shortlist but Two Girls in a Boat rose to the top as it fulfilled the judges' brief that the winning entry have linguistic flair, originality, depth and daring. The story was chosen for its gorgeous, elegant and spare writing; its nuanced handling of time, place and relationships; its daring, provocative subject matter and clear-eyed exploration of the choice of heterosexual conformity in the face of sexual mutability," Chair of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize Bernardine Evaristo said
The development of a writers’ prize is an initiative of the Commonwealth Foundation which hopes to allow writers the opportunity to develop their craft.
"We’re excited that in the first year of Commonwealth Writers we have a Book Prize winner who’s not from a country with a large, well established publishing industry and a Short Story Prize winner who’s just starting to get recognised. We congratulate both Shehan and Emma for a fantastic achievement and we’re looking forward to working alongside them in the future to help promote opportunities for writers in their regions," Programme Manager (Culture) Commonwealth Foundation Lucy Hannah said
The awards were presented to the winners by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the Hay Festival. As part of the award, Karunatilaka and Martin will also receive £10,000 and £5,000 cash prizes for their efforts.