Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Shortlist

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Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Shortlist Reveals Exciting Mix of Established and Undiscovered Stars

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, internationally recognised for its role in celebrating ground-breaking works from both new and established authors, has today unveiled a mix of established and undiscovered stars for the South Asia and Europe regional shortlist for the 2011 Prize.

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, supported by the Macquarie Group Foundation and now in its 25th year, has selected both household names, including Andrea Levy, and the future literacy icons of tomorrow for the shortlists for Best Book and Best First Book awards. The winners from South Asia and Europe will go on to compete against writers from across the Commonwealth at the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize’s final programme to be held at the Sydney Writers’ Festival from the 16th to the 22nd May.

The shortlisted writers for South Asia and Europe Best Book are:

Lyrics Alley by Leila Abouleila (UK)

The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore (UK)

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (UK)

The Long Song by Andrea Levy (UK)

Sex and Stravinsky by Barbara Trapido (UK)

Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett (UK)

The shortlisted writers for South Asia and Europe Best First Book are:

Serious Men by Manu Joseph (India)

Saraswati Park by Anjali Joseph (India)

The House with the Blue Shutters by Lisa Hilton (UK)

Children of the Sun by Max Shaefer (UK)

Grace Williams says it Loud by Emma Henderson (UK)

Sabra Zoo by Mischa Hiller (UK)

For the last 25 years the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize has played a key role in unearthing international literary stars, bringing compelling stories of human experience to a wider audience. Winners of this year’s Commonwealth Writers’ Prize will follow in the footsteps of some of the biggest female names in fiction, including Zadie Smith, who won the Best First Book award in 2001 for her book White Teeth.

The regional winners of the Best Book and First Book prizes will be announced on the 3rd March, with the final programme commencing on the 16th May at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in Australia. This will bring together the finalists from the four different regions of the Commonwealth, and the two overall winners will be announced on the 21st May.

Commonwealth Foundation Director, Dr. Mark Collins, said:

“The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize aims to reward the best of Commonwealth fiction written in English and underlines our commitment to promoting cultural exchange and diversity. This year the range of subjects, the breadth of genres and the diversity of writers will bring the very best of Commonwealth literature to new audiences. The support of the Macquarie Group Foundation has seen the Prize gain in international standing and expand its reach.  This year we’re delighted to be holding our final award programme in Sydney, the home of Macquarie, at Sydney Writers’ Festival.”

David Clarke, Chairman of the Macquarie Group Foundation, the main supporter of the Prize, added:

“The Macquarie Group Foundation’s continuing support of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in its 25th year is the cornerstone of Macquarie’s arts philanthropy. The Prize plays a valuable role in recognising and rewarding diverse literary talents and, in so doing, connects global communities.”

Commenting on the shortlist for Best Book, Muneeza Shamsie, South Asia and Europe Regional Chair, said:

“There were some really strong contenders from the Europe and South Asia region for the best book.  The shortlist reflects novels with a geographical diversity and historical sweep,  portraying  with immense sympathy individuals caught up in great events from sixteenth century Japan to twentieth century Sudan, from nineteenth century Jamaica to the present day.  In diverse ways these novels depict the struggles of humanity amid the growth and decline of civilizations.”

Commenting on the shortlist for Best First Book, Muneeza Shamsie added:

“The entries were very diverse and the shortlist was chosen only after a spirited debate. These writers have taken a familiar genre and shaken it up so as to provide new moral insights.  Their stories reflect the dilemmas of our day; they range from harrowing memories of World War II and the refugee camps of Lebanon, to witty explorations of parental ambition and childhood genius”.

For further information about the regional winners and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize please visit:

Marcie Shaoul

Communications Manager

Commonwealth Foundation

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7747 6582


Notes to Editors

  1. The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, established in 1987, is organised and funded by the Commonwealth Foundation with the support of the Macquarie Group Foundation. The Commonwealth Foundation is an intergovernmental body working to help civil society organisations promote democracy, development and cultural understanding in Commonwealth countries.
  2. The Macquarie Group Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Macquarie Group Limited, a global provider of banking, financial, advisory, investment and fund management services.
  3. The 2011 pan-Commonwealth panel of judges which will decide the overall winners is chaired by Hon Justice Nicholas Hasluck AM (Chair of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize), and comprises the four regional chairpersons: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari (Africa); Antonia MacDonald-Smythe (Caribbean and Canada); Muneeza Shamsie (South Asia and Europe); and Dr. Paul Sharrad (South East Asia and Pacific)
  4. The £10,000 Best Book Prize in 2010 was awarded to UK writer Rana Dasgupta for Solo. The Best First Book Prize of £5,000 went to Australian writer Glenda Guest for Siddon Rock. The prizes were announced on the 12th April 2010 in Delhi, India. The 2009 overall winner was Christos Tsialkos of Australia for The Slap.