Sri Lankan, New Zealand writers win Commonwealth prizes
Posted: Jun 8, 2012 2:30 PM ET
Last Updated: Jun 8, 2012 2:29 PM ET
Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka has won the Commonwealth Book Prize for his debut novel Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, while New Zealand writer Emma Martin is winner of the short story prize.
Karunatilaka beat four other writers, including New Brunswick's Riel Nason, regional Commonwealth winner for Canada and Europe for her debut novel The Town That Drowned.Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka won the Commonwealth Book Prize for his novel about the search for a former cricket star. (Commonwealth Foundation)
In Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, former advertising copywriter Karunatilaka tells the story of a sports journalist who embarks on a quest to find a cricket star who appears to have been expunged from history.
"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," said jury chair Margaret Busby.
"It's an insightful story about fact and gullibility, about world history, about friends and family [and it] sets the standard high for the new Commonwealth Book Prize."
Wellington, N.Z.-based Martin won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Two Girls in a Boat, a story hailed by the jury for its "gorgeous, elegant and spare writing." She is currently working on a collection of short fiction.
The winner of the Commonwealth Book Prize receives £10,000 ($15,940 Cdn), while the short story winner gets £5,000 ($7,970 Cdn).
Focus on new talent
The Commonwealth Foundation relaunched the award this year with a mission to target new talent. All the nominees for the main book prize were debut novelists.
Karunatilaka said it was a "huge surprise" to win and welcomed the international attention the prize draws to his book.
"Winning the prize means so much … If you are a Sri Lankan writing in English, you can't expect to be published outside Sri Lanka. When I finished it, I thought it would be appealing to Sri Lankans, and perhaps readers in India and Pakistan and the subcontinent would get into it, but I really didn't think it would go further than that," he said in a statement on the Commonwealth Foundation site.
"I was surprised to make it to the final five, considering how strong the Asia shortlist was. To win it is quite crazy."
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