03 Mar 2011
The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, internationally recognised for promoting ground-breaking works of fiction from across the globe, announced yesterday that Australian writer Kim Scott has won the South East Asia and Pacific region Best Book category with his novel That Deadman Dance, and New Zealand writer Craig Cliff is the winner in the Best First Book category with his collection of short stories, A Man Melting.
The two writers will compete with other regional winners from Africa, Caribbean and Canada, and South Asia and Europe for the overall Best Book and Best First Book prizes.
The winners will take part in the final programme of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize which takes place at Sydney Writers’ Festival (16-22 May). The overall winners of Best Book and Best First Book will be announced on 21 May.
The Commonwealth Foundation is delighted to welcome Stephen Romei, Literary Editor of The Australian newspaper, as this year’s guest judge for the Prize.
For the last 25 years the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize has played a key role in unearthing international literary names, bringing compelling stories of human experience to a wider audience. Winners of this year’s Prize will follow in the footsteps of some of the biggest names in fiction, such as Peter Carey, who won the Best First Book award in both 1998 with Jack Maggs, and in 2001 with True History of the Kelly Gang, and Kate Grenville who won the Best Book award in 2006 with The Secret River.
Commenting, Vijay Krishnarayan, Deputy Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, said:
“The level of entries in this year’s Commonwealth Writers’ Prize has been absolutely outstanding and the competition is fierce. I would like to congratulate Kim Scott and Craig Cliff in getting through to the final stage and look forward to them joining us in Sydney for the final programme. Now in its 25th year the Prize continues to identify and promote the best of Commonwealth fiction written in English and in doing so helps to create new literary icons across the Commonwealth.”
David Clarke, Chairman of the Macquarie Group Foundation, the supporter of the Prize, added:
"The regional judging panel has made a discerning choice recognising Kim Scott and Craig Cliff from South East Asia and Pacific as the regional finalists in the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, from the shortlisted pool of talented new and established authors. Both of the books chosen are powerful examples of first class storytelling."
Dr. Paul Sharrad, South East Asia and Pacific Regional Chair, said of That Deadman Dance:
“That Deadman Dance was found to best comply with the stated intent of the prize of not being only about fine literary style. It is a strong dramatisation of a consciousness poised at the intersection of magical and materialist cultures, excited by the possibilities of the new; but it also treats the negotiations between races and cultures in the period of first contact without over-simplification and with sympathetic convincing depiction of the varied responses of convicts, merchants, governors, whalers, young and old Aborigines. It is a book of lyrical energies, held in check by a realistic sense of history, which balances the elegy for what we know was lost with possibilities of mutual understanding that have always been there.”
Of A Man Melting, Dr. Paul Sharrad added:
“A Man Melting marks the appearance of a lively new voice in New Zealand writing, wry, punchy, filled with fresh images, and providing an engaging mix of fantasy and gritty realism. It handles both male and female characters convincingly and tackles serious social concerns such as suicide with a combination of delicacy and dramatic directness. The stories cover a range of situations from the emotional process of returning home from overseas, to cooking for a tribe of London school kids on a barge in bad weather. These are extraordinary stories about ordinary people, and they are told with a great deal of affection. It is a consistently powerful and entertaining collection and is awarded the prize accordingly.”