Defining books “of our time”, say judges
Today [21st May] the winners of the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize were announced in Sydney in an exciting climax to this year’s final programme. Critically acclaimed international literary titles for Best Book and Best First Book were awarded to:
Best Book Winner – The Memory of Love, Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone)
The judges praised The Memory of Love for its risk taking, elegance and breadth. A poignant story about friendship, betrayal, obsession and second chances – the novel is an immensely powerful portrayal of human resilience. The judges concluded that The Memory of Love delicately delves into the courageous lives of those haunted by the indelible effects of Sierra Leone’s past and yet amid that loss gives us a sense of hope and optimism for their future. Forna has produced a bold, deeply moving and accomplished novel which confirms her place among the most talented writers in literature today.
Best First Book Winner – A Man Melting, Craig Cliff (New Zealand)
The judges chose this highly entertaining and thought provoking collection of short stories for their ambition, creativity and craftsmanship. Confidently blending ideas that frequently weave outlandish concepts with everyday incidents, the prose is skilfully peppered with social observations that define the world we live in. The eighteen short stories are truly insightful and amplify many of the absurdities around us, reflecting our own expectations, fears and paranoia on the big questions in life. This book is of the moment, and is rightly at home on a global platform. Cliff is a talent to watch and set to take the literary world by storm.
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. The Best Book winner claims £10,000 while the writer of Best First Book wins £5,000.
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. As highly acclaimed international authors Aminatta Forna and Craig Cliff will follow in the footsteps of some of the biggest names in modern fiction in winning the Prize, including Louis De Bernieres, Andrea Levy, Ian McEwan, and Zadie Smith.
For the fifth consecutive year the Macquarie Group Foundation, one of Australia’s leading philanthropic foundations, is helping to advance one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the world. With Macquarie’s support the prize has grown to reach more people around the world, encouraging wider reading across a range of Commonwealth cultures and rewarding the rising talent that other prizes often overlook.
Aminatta Forna was born in Glasgow, Scotland and raised in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Her first book, The Devil that Danced on the Water, was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2003. Her novel Ancestor Stones was winner of the 2008 Hurston Wright Legacy Award, the Literaturpreis in Germany, was nominated for the International IMPAC Award and selected by the Washington Post as one of the most important books of 2006. Aminatta lives in London.
Craig Cliff was born in Palmerston North, New Zealand. A graduate of Victoria University’s MA in creative writing, his short stories and poetry have been published in New Zealand and Australia. His short story ‘Another Language’ won the novice section of the 2007 BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards. Craig lives in Wellington, New Zealand.
Commenting on the winning announcement, Danny Sriskandarajah Interim Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, said:
“I am delighted to congratulate the winners of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2011. In its 25th year, the Prize embodies the Commonwealth at its best. It unearths the best writing from across 54 countries, promoting dialogue and understanding on an international scale.”
Richard Sheppard, Chairman of the Macquarie Group Foundation, the supporter of the Prize, added:
“The Macquarie Group Foundation is delighted that two such diverse writers have won this year’s Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. For the last 25 years, the Prize has helped to bring writers to new global audiences and I’m sure once again that this year’s winners will delight and inspire readers and writers around the world.”
Nicholas Hasluck, Chair of the judging panel said:
“This year’s winning books demonstrate the irreducible power of the written word at a time of rapid global change and uncertainty. The standard of entries this year has been exceptional, showcasing work with strong insight, spirit and voice introducing readers to unfamiliar worlds.”