Commonwealth Writers' Prize Winners, 2011

Here are the results for the Commonwelath Writers’ Prize, 2011

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, internationally recognised for promoting ground-breaking works of fiction from across the globe, announced  that David Mitchell has won the South Asia and Europe region Best Book category with his work The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, and Mischa Hiller is the winner in the Best First Book category with his novel Sabra Zoo.


Regional Winners:


Best Book: The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone)

Best First Book: Happiness is a four-letter word by Cynthia Jele (South Africa)

Caribbean and Canada:

Best Book: Room by Emma Donoghue (Canada)

Best First Book: Bird Eat Bird by Katrina Best (Canada)

South Asia and Europe:

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

Best First Book: Sabra Zoo by Mischa Hiller (UK)

South East Asia and Pacific:

Best Book: That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott (Australia)

Best First Book: A Man Melting by Craig Cliff (New Zealand)

The final programme of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize will bring together the regional winners from Africa, Caribbean and Canada, South Asia and Europe, and South East Asia and Pacific, at Sydney Writers’ Festival (16-22 May). The overall winners of Best Book and Best First Book will be announced on 21 May.

Now in its 25th year and supported by the Macquarie Group Foundation, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize is unique in offering both established and emerging writers the opportunity to showcase their work.

For the last 25 years the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize has played a key role in unearthing new international literary names, bringing compelling stories of human experience to a wider audience. Winners of this year’s Prize will follow in the footsteps of some of the biggest names in fiction, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Andrea Levy, Ian McEwan, and Zadie Smith.

Commenting, Vijay Krishnarayan, Deputy Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, said:

“Taken as a whole, the eight winning books bring the very best of Commonwealth literature to new audiences.  These compelling works reach out to readers across all cultures with their extraordinary stories, literary flair, and unique voices. These books highlight the incredible diversity, history and life of the Commonwealth.”

Muneeza Shamsie, South Asia and Europe Regional Chair, said of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet:

“The judges thought that all the shortlisted books were epic in scope and revolved around telling cultural encounters; these were ‘big books’ which dealt with dilemmas of historical change and the individual’s struggle to survive. The final choice of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet was due to its combination of bold ambition and minute detail and the way in which the novel juxtaposes different cultures – Dutch, Japanese, British – at a particular juncture of world history, as the eighteenth century ends and the nineteenth century begins.”

Of Sabra Zoo, Muneeza Shamsie added:

“The judges considered all the shortlisted books to be very diverse in subject matter and form, and they provided valuable insights into many different societies. Sabra Zoo was chosen for its understated but powerful portrayal of a harrowing episode in recent times. The portrayal of a young man’s discovery of self, against the backdrop of social and political turmoil is recreated with great skill.”

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

“The Macquarie Group Foundation is delighted that these literary works will be promoted globally, and we await with great interest the announcement of the overall Commonwealth Writers’ Prize  winners in May.”

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 prestigious Sydney Writers’ festival is Australia’s largest celebration of books and ideas and one of the most significant events in the international literary calendar.
  4. The 2011 pan-Commonwealth panel of judges which will decide the overall winners is chaired by Hon Justice Nicholas Hasluck AM, 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).
  5. 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 12 April 2010 in Delhi, India.