British-Indian author Rana Dasgupta on Monday won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for 2010 for his epic tale Solo set in Communist and post-Communist Bulgaria while Australian Glenda Guest’s Siddon Rock picked up the Best First Book prize at the award’s grand finale ceremony here.
Mr. Dasgupta, whose book was earlier adjudged the best in the South Asia and Europe region, beat off stiff competition from the three other regions to win the £10,000 prize.
Minister of State for External Affair Shashi Tharoor gave away the awards at the event held for the first time in Delhi, the venue for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in October.
“I don’t see the Prize in any way as a celebration of colonialism or an acknowledgement of the historical past but surely as one that binds us together through language,” said Tharoor who was a recipeint of the prize around 20 years ago.
The contenders, who lost out to Mr. Dasgupta in the race were South African author Marie Heese’s The Double Crown, Canadian writer Michael Crummey’s Galore and Samoan author Albert Wendt’s The Adventures of Vela.
Similarly, Glenda Guest won the £5,000 prize seeing off competition from seven regional winners of the Best First Book from Africa, the Caribbean and Canada, South Asia-Europe, South East Asia-Pacific regions.
The panel of judges that decided the overall winners included Chair of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Justice Nicholas Hasluck, Elinor Sisulu Antonia MacDonald Smythe Muneeza Shamsie Anne Brewster and Makarand Paranjpaye, the representative from India.
Born in the U.K., 38-year old Mr. Dasgupta, whose first book Tokyo Cancelled was shortlisted for the 2005 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, has been based in Delhi for the last nine years.
Solo is Mr. Dasgupta’s second book and is a story that encompasses a century of Communist and post-Communist regimes in Bulgaria, told from the perspective of a near centenarian man.
Ms. Guest’s Siddon Rock won the award over other first timers -- Nigerian author Adaobi Tricia Nwaubeni’s I Do Not Come to You by Chance, Canadian debut novelist Shandi Mitchell’s Under This Unbroken Sky and Pakistani author Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.
The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards, is presented annually to reward the best Commonwealth fiction written in English by both established and new writers.
The Prize, instituted in 1987 by the Commonwealth Foundation, covers the Commonwealth regions of Africa, the Caribbean and Canada, Europe, South Asia and South East Asia and Pacific.
The eight winners that emerged from the regional judging were announced in March and were in Delhi for the final phase of the competition.
“I cannot breathe,” said Ms. Guest after her win was announced. “This is so out of my realm of thought,” said the author of the best first book accepting her award.
Meanwhile, Mr. Dasgupta who looked dapper in a black suit, thanked his parents who he said supported his writings.
Previous winners of the Prize include Vikram Chandra, Jhumpa Lahiri, Mohammed Hanif, V.S. Naipaul, J.M. Coetzee, Indra Sinha, Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood among others.