Singapore Book Council, in Its 50th Year, Confers 2018 Literature Prize Honors

In News by Porter Anderson

In Chinese, English, Malay, and Tamil, the Singapore Literature Prizes are conferred every other year in categories of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry.

On Singapore’s Orchard Road. Image – iStockph[oto: TK Kurikawa

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Developing Local Writing and Writers’
At a program this evening (August 6) in the National Trades Union Congress Centre, winners of the biennial Singapore Literature Prize have been announced in 12 categories spanning four languages, each carrying a prize in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Winners of each prize receive 10,000 Singapore dollars (US$7,306).

The winners include author and translator Jeremy Tiang, whose guest-editor work at Words Without Borders this month features literature of Macau and includes two of his own translations from Chinese. You can read Publishing Perspectives’ interview with Tiang here.

Also of special interest, Farihan Bahron has one both the top prize in Malay poetry and a commendation in Malay fiction.

The 2018 award cycle for the prize marks the first time the public has been invited to attend the ceremony in the center’s Stephen Riady Auditorium, a gesture that’s part of the Singapore Book Council‘s 50th anniversary observances this year.

This evening, 10 top-prize winners have been announced, along with three merit prize winners (5,000 Singapore dollars each) and five recipients of commendations (1,000 Singapore dollars each).

As the council’s director, William Phuan, reminds us, the awards date to 1992. Of the 50 shortlisted writers this year, 32 were newcomers to the competition. The award drew 172 eligible submissions in the four linguistic groups:

  • Chinese: 43 submissions
  • English: 91 submissions
  • Malay: 16 submissions
  • Tamil: 22 submissions

In poetry, there were 50 submissions, in creative nonfiction 66, and in fiction 56 submissions.

An awards program that ranges across both languages and literary categories requires a lot of jurors, and in this year’s competition there were 12 panels of judges at work, one for each language and category.

Singapore Literature Prize 2018 Winners

Poetry in Chinese

  • Winner: 陈志锐Tan Chee Lay, 狮城地标诗学(Landmark Poetics of the Lion City

Poetry in English 

  • Winner: Samuel Lee, A Field Guide to Supermarkets in Singapore

Poetry in Malay

  • Winner: Farihan Bahron, Tukang Tunjuk Telunjuk (Finger-Pointing

Poetry in Tamil

  • Commendation: AK Varadharajan, லீ குைோன் இயூ பிள்றளத்தமிழ்(Lee Kuan Yew’s Imaginary Childhood
  • Commendation: M Segar, இரோைணனின் சீறத(Ravana’s Seethai

Creative Nonfiction in Chinese

  • Co-winner: 流苏Liu Su. 蔷薇边缘 (Roses at the Edge
  • Co-winne:r 翁弦尉Weng Xian-Wei, 第二张脸 (The Second Face)

Creative Nonfiction in English

  • Winner: Melissa De Silva, ‘Others’ is Not a Race

Creative Nonfiction in Malay

  • Commendation: Ahmad Bin Md Tahir, Rona Wicara (Color of Expression)

Creative Nonfiction in Tamil

  • Winner: Bala Baskaran, க ோ. சோரங் போணியும் தமிழ் முரசும்: இன்றைய போரற் ை (G Sarangapany and the Tamil Murasu: A Current Appraisal)

Fiction in Chinese

  • Co-winner: 李选楼Lee Chuan Low, 救灾前线 (Rescue Frontline)
  • Co-winner: 张挥 Zhang Hui, 烟事袅袅 (Smoker Memories)

Fiction in English

  • Winner: Jeremy Tiang, State of Emergency

Fiction in Malay

  • Merit: Hamed Bin Ismail, Bunga Tanjong (A Dancing Club: Bunga Tanjong)
  • Commendation: Adam Bin Fadila, Bilal Mencari Nur (Muezzin In Search of Light)
  • Commendation: Farihan Bahron, Kesumat Sang Avatar (Avatar’s Wrath)

Fiction in Tamil

  • Merit: Chitra Ramesh, ஒரு துளி சந்கதோஷம் (A Drop of Happiness)
  • Merit: MK Kumar, 5:12 P.M.
Singapore Book Council at 50

In a prepared statement on the 50th anniversary programming from the Singapore Book Council, Phuan is quoted, saying, “It’s not happenstance that SBC is where it is today. It has weathered many challenges facing the books industry and the nonprofit sector over the decades–and is still facing them.

“I feel very privileged to be able to stand on the shoulders of veterans … and build on what they have achieved so far, and take the entire organization forward.

“Since our humble beginnings in 1968, we’ve been tirelessly promoting and developing local writing and writers.

“From festivals like the Festival of Books and Asian Festival of Children’s Content to National Reading Month and #BuySingLit movement, as well as the Singapore Literature Prize and other awards that we give out, we have been the champion and advocate of SingLit for the past 50 years.”

Among special events for this year’s 50th anniversary programming, the Singapore Book Council is to mount a special display of the literature prize-winning titles at the National Library

It’s to run until the September 8 in the Lee Kong Chian reference section, tracing the development of the prize alongside the council’s half-century history.

And the next programming highlight on the calendar for the 50th-year observances is the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, scheduled to run September 6 to 8.

More from Publishing Perspectives on Singapore and its publishing industry is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.