Scoop Review of Books

Auckland to Host Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

The two overall winners of the twenty-third annual Commonwealth Writers’ Prize will be announced at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival on 16 May 2009.

The Prize, an increasingly valued international award for fiction, is presented by the Commonwealth Foundation. The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize aims to reward the best of Commonwealth fiction written in English, by both established and new writers, and to take their works to a global audience.

All eight regional winners, announced in March, and judges will come together at the Festival for a series of readings, discussions and other public events, the final pan-Commonwealth judging and a presentation ceremony for the winning overall Prizes of £5,000 for the Best First Book winner and £10,000 for Best Book winner.

Mark Collins, Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, commented:

“We are very pleased to be bringing the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize back to New Zealand after ten years. To be partnering with such an important festival signals the Prize’s growth and explains how it has come to be recognised as a credible and significant award both on a community and global level.”

“It’s exciting to be partnering with AWRF. The festival offers a fantastic platform for exchange between writers, community groups and international audiences. With a week of activities to take place ahead of the announcement, the entire 2009 final programme promises to be an outstanding experience for everyone involved.”

Jill Rawnsley, Festival Director commented:

“The AWRF is delighted to host the 23rd Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and partner with the Commonwealth Foundation. We eagerly await the announcement of the regional finalists in March, and look forward to witnessing the impact of their interaction with local readers and writers in May.”

“The importance of the Prize is evident in the impressive list of previous winners, some of whom will be in New Zealand for reunions with the 2009 regional finalists and judges. The addition of a series of Commonwealth Writers’ Prize events to the 2009 festival programme is a memorable gift for our audience to mark the festival’s tenth anniversary, and we look forward to welcoming Commonwealth Writers’ Prize guests to Auckland City.”

New Zealand author and 2007 overall winner Lloyd Jones commented:

“When Mister Pip won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the Best Book it suddenly moved into a bigger world. On the back of that success it was sold into more countries and went on to win more than its fair share of space on the review pages of newspapers and journals throughout the English-speaking world… And of course I felt and continue to feel very proud of its achievement”

Julie White, Head of the Macquarie Group Foundation – the main supporter of the Prize – comments, “The Macquarie Group Foundation has been supporting the Commonwealth Foundation for four years. We are proud to be associated with such a serious and meticulously judged prize that contributes greatly to the global literary community. We wish the 2009 Prize contenders the best of luck and await introductions to their works of fiction which offer enriching glimpses into other worlds.”

The 2009 pan-Commonwealth panel of judges who 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: Elinor Sisulu (Africa); Dr Michael Bucknor (Canada and the Caribbean); Professor Makarand Paranjape (Europe and South Asia); and Dr Anne Brewster (South East Asia and South Pacific). A sixth New Zealand judge will also be appointed.

In 2008, the £10,000 Best Book Prize was awarded to Canadian writer Lawrence Hill for The Book of Negroes. The Best First Book Prize of £5,000 went to Bangladeshi writer Tahmima Anam for A Golden Age. This was announced at the Franschhoek Literary Festival in South Africa in partnership with the South African Department of Arts and Culture.