SINGAPORE – First-time nominations dominated the shortlist of the Singapore Literature Prize, which will involve the public for the first time in the biennial award’s history.
It was also the first time a publisher filled an entire category, with Epigram Books getting five nominations for English fiction.
The shortlist was revealed on Tuesday (June 19) by the Singapore Book Council, which organises the awards, the oldest ongoing multilingual literary prize in Singapore.
Fifty authors are in the running in the 12 categories, which are fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry in Chinese, English, Malay and Tamil. Each winner will receive a cash prize of $10,000 and a plaque.
The council’s executive director William Phuan says: “In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Singapore Book Council this year, we decided to open up the ceremony to the public and invite them to be part of it.”
The prizes will be given out on Aug 6 at the Stephen Riady Auditorium at NTUC Centre. While the public will have no role in deciding the winners, they will be invited to guess the winners and also vote for their favourite book covers. They stand to win books and book vouchers.
The council will be organising outreach events such as a display of all previous prize-winning titles at the National Library from July 16 to Sept 8.
This year’s 36 judges, with three judging each category, include academics and writers. They range from Books Kinokuniya senior store and merchandising director Kenny Chan for English fiction to poet and author KTM Iqbal for Tamil poetry.
Oxford Professor of Poetry Simon Armitage from Britain was one of the judges for English poetry, alongside local poets Alfian Sa’at and Pooja Nansi.
Of the shortlisted authors, 32 made the cut for the first time, including The Straits Times United States bureau chief Nirmal Ghosh, for his non-fiction book Unquiet Kingdom about Thailand’s tumultuous political transition; Charmaine Leung’s memoir 17A Keong Saik Road, about growing up as the daughter of a brothel owner; and two books in Malay by Farihan Bahron.
Farihan, 39, has been writing for 20 or so years but these are his first nominations. He was shortlisted for his speculative short story collection Avatar’s Wrath and poetry book Finger-Pointing Expert.
“I’m excited just to be acknowledged,” says the co-owner of publisher Unggun Creative. “I hope after this to progress to the next level, to work in more fields such as translation.”
“It’s completely unexpected,” says Leung, 46, of the nomination. “It was a personal story about old Singapore. To be shortlisted is like already winning and I feel really privileged.”
Publisher Epigram Books, which was responsible for the English fiction winners for the last two awards, published all five nominees in the English fiction category this year. It is the first time a publisher has filled a prize category entirely.
Read Olivia Ho’s full article via The Straits Times.
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