Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Shortlist for Commonwealth Writers' Prize

The Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2009 Shortlist has been announced, with a selection of writers across the Commonwealth nominated in the Best Book and Best First Book categories.

From Australia, they've stacked up Aravind Adiga of
White Tiger-Man Booker fame against Helen Garner, Joan London, Christos Tsiolkas and Tim Winton for the Best Book prize. Wow. I don't want to be taking bets on this one.

They've also stacked up Nam Le (for The Boat) and a bunch of other firsties against Aravind Adiga again, this time for The White Tiger, for Best First Book. You'd think though, since Adiga won the Man Booker for The White Tiger that they'll lay of him for a while and let some other writers have a chance? Not that I'd put money on it, but I do hope that Nam Le wins it – I think The Boat is a brilliant collection of stories.

I don't get why Aravind Adiga is listed amongst those from Southeast Asia & Pacific. Wikipedia states he has dual Indian and Australian citizenship, but he lives in Mumbai now, so … what gives?

The shortlistees from Southeast Asia & Pacific for Best Book are:
  • Aravind Adiga (Australia) Between The Assassinations - Atlantic Books
  • Helen Garner (Australia) The Spare Room - The Text Publishing Company
  • Joan London (Australia) The Good Parents - Random House Australia (Vintage Imprint)
  • Paula Morris (New Zealand) Forbidden Cities - Penguin New Zealand
  • Christos Tsiolkas (Australia) The Slap - Allen and Unwin
  • Tim Winton, (Australia) Breath - Picador
I'm interested to see that a Malaysian author, Preeta Samarasan, has been shortlisted for a First Book Award too, for Evening is the Whole Day. I'm a little perterbed that it sounds like it's in the Arrundathi Roy-Amitav Ghosh-and dare I say it, Aravind Adiga mould, but I shouldn't be surprised considering current literary tastes.

I wonder when we will get past writers of Asian and African decent getting gongs for more stories of jungles, plantations, wild animals and bizarre families and cross-generational/cultural conflict, while white authors continue to be lauded for angst-ridden kitchen table dramas. I'm getting tired of how the empire is still enamored with the heyday of its plantations and coolies. Hm, is that too harsh?

Commonwealth Writers' Prize website seems to be crashing, probably due to the heavy demand to see the shortlist, so check out Readings online's news of the 2009 Shortlist, including links to their reviews of the books where available.

I'm waiting to borrow White Tiger from a colleague. What will you read next? Anything from the shortlist?

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