Commonwealth Writers’ Prize winners

The overall winners of the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize were announced on May 18 at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan awarded a cheque of £10 000 for the Overall Best Book Award to Canada’s Lawrence Hill for his novel, The Book of Negroes (HarperCollins Publishers).

The Overall Best First Book Award of £5 000 was awarded to Tahmima Anam of Bangladesh for A Golden Age (John Murray).

Hill’s award will include an audience with Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Commonwealth Foundation director, Mark Collins.

On receiving the award, Hill said of The Book of Negroes: ‘It 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.”

Anam, from Bangladesh, said about A Golden Age, ‘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 for my sometimes troubled country.”

Reviewing A Golden Age late last year, the Guardian’s reviewer Kamila Shamsie wrote: ‘ There is never a moment when we lose sight of the upheaval of Dhaka in 1971, but Anam adroitly weaves these stories into the personal lives of her characters.”

The Best Book winner for the African region was Nigeria’s Karen King-Aribisala for The Hangman’s Game (Peepal Tree Press) and the Best First Book for Africa was Nigeria’s Sade Adeniran for Imagine This (SW Books).

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, established in 1987, is sponsored and administered by the Commonwealth Foundation with the support of the Macquarie Group Foundation.

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