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Indian wins Commonwealth Writers Prize

Indian-origin writer Indra Sinha's book Animal's People, based on the Bhopal gas tragedy, has been adjudged this year's best book in Europe and South Asia by the Commonwealth.

india Updated: May 19, 2008 15:15 IST
HS Rao

Indian-origin writer Indra Sinha's book Animal's People, based on the Bhopal gas tragedy, has been adjudged this year's best book in Europe and South Asia by the Commonwealth.

Canada's Lawrence Hill won the top Commonwealth Writers' Prize for her The Book of Negroes, a novel about forgotten story of 18th Century Africans. Hill has been named the winner of the best book award.

Bangladesh's Tahmima Anam bagged the award for best first book for A Golden Age, a fictionalised account of her country's war for independence in 1971.

South African Minister of Arts and Culture Z Pallo Jordan presented a cheque for 10,000 pounds ($19,600) to Hill and a cheque for 5,000 pounds ($9,800) to Anam at the Franschhoek Literary Festival in South Africa, it was officially announced.

Besides winning the prize, Hill will travel to London to meet with the Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, accompanied by Commonwealth Foundation Director, Dr Mark Collins.

He will also meet Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma at the Commonwealth's Marlborough House headquarters and give a public reading from his award winning book.

The Commonwealth Writers' Prize, an increasingly valued and sought after award for fiction, is presented annually by the Commonwealth Foundation.

The Prize aims to reward the best Commonwealth fiction written in English, by both established and new writers, and to take their works to a global audience, thereby increasing appreciation of and building understanding between cultures.

It is sponsored and organised by the Commonwealth Foundation with the support of the Macquarie Group Foundation. On winning the award, Hill said: "The Book of Negroes dramatises the all but forgotten story of 18th Century Africans forced into slavery in the Americas, liberated after many years and miraculously returned to the mother continent in the same lifetime.

"It was both intimidating and exhilarating to write the novel in the voice of an 18th Century African woman, Aminata. I thought of her as my own daughter and gave her the name of my eldest child, in order to love her sufficiently to lift her off the page.

"As a Canadian novelist, with the usual challenges that writers in small markets, it is thrilling to receive the Prize and the opportunity that it presents. I thank the Commonwealth Foundation and the Macquarie Group Foundation for celebrating literature and literacy so vigorously in 53 countries worldwide."

Tahmima Anam said: "I am honoured and humbled to be the first ever Bangladeshi winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. "I wrote A Golden Age because I wanted the story of the Bangladesh war to reach an international audience. It is a story of great tragedy, but also represents a moment of hope and possibility for my troubled country.

"I thank the Commonwealth Foundation, the judges, the supporters and the organisers of the Prize for giving me this wonderful opportunity," she said.