Singapore Book Council Names its 2020 Literature Prize Winners

In News by Porter Anderson

Held every other year, the Singapore Literature Prize program honors work in the four official languages of the island nation – Chinese, English, Malay, and Tamil.

From the 2019 Singapore Literature Prize celebration. Image: Singapore Book Council

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

New Category: Reader’s Favorites
Earlier this month, we covered winners in the 2020 Singapore Book Awards, which are produced by the Singapore Book Publishers Association.

Singapore Literature Prize 2020 logoToday’s announcement (August 31) features winners of the other key prize program in the island market, the 2020 Singapore Literature Prize, produced by the Singapore Book Council.

Wong Koi Tet) and Sithuraj Ponraj were the two biggest winners this year, both winning two awards each. Wong Koi Tet was the winner for fiction and creative nonfiction in Chinese, while Sithuraj Ponraj was the winner for poetry in Tamil, and a merit winner for fiction in Tamil.

The program, then, has 12 winners, as well as four merit winners, and content recognized here includes poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. You’ll find multiple winners under a given category because this is the Singaporean program that awards work in all four of the nation’s official languages—Chinese, English, Malay, and Tamil.

And as so many in world publishing work to produce various digital evocations of their normally physical events, this is one which has created an online ceremony of more than an hour juggling four languages. No mean feat. We’ll embed the ceremony for you below.

Wong Koi Tet

Ten of the prizes this year go to first-time winners.

The program also has created a “readers’ favorite” category, something many prize programs like to include as a way of engaging the consumer base in a sense of involvement in the program and the market. Organizers report that close to 3,000 people voted in the readers’ choice category, again across the four languages of the program. Voting took place between July 22 and August 17.

Sithuraj Ponraj

Each winner in the core juried program receives 3,000 Singapore dollars (US$2,205), with 2,000 Singapore dollars (US$1,470) going to each merit prize winner.

Winners of the readers’ favorite vote get 1,000 Singapore dollars (US$735).

Another milestone pointed to by organizers is the fact that there were two winners in each of the four languages in the fiction category.

This not only shows the prescience of creating the four-language format but also to a deepening market in fiction.

In addition, Marylyn Tan has become the first woman to win the poetry prize in English, for Gaze Back.

2020 Singapore Literature Prize Winners

Gene Tan hosts the 2020 digital award ceremony for the Singapore Literature Prize at the old Parliament House, now called the Arts House. Image: Singapore Book Council


  • 《形成爱》 Love Comes Into Shape by吴耀宗  (Gabriel Wu)
  • Gaze Back by Marylyn Tan
  • Sepatu Mimpi Dream Shoes by Samsudin Said
  • இத்தாலியனாவதுசுலபம்  It is Easy to be an Italian by  சித்துராஜ் பொன்ராஜ் (Sithuraj Ponraj)

Creative Nonfiction

  • 《达哥打》 dakota by 黄凯德 (Wong Koi Tet)
  • Pulp II: A Visual Bibliography of the Banished Book by Shubigi Rao
  • Falsafah Pengkarayaan Melayu Singapura The Philosophy of Singapore Malay Creative Writing Process by Mohamed Pitchay Gani Mohamed Abdul Aziz
  • வாழைமரநோட்டு Banana Money by ஹேமலதா   Hemalatha


  • 《豹变》Black Panther by 黄凯德 (Wong Koi Tet)
  • 《建国》Kian Kok by 谢裕民 (Chia Joo Ming)
  • Nimita’s Place by Akshita Nanda
  • Lion City by Ng Yi-Sheng

Merit Winners

  • Tunjuk Langit Pointing the Sky by Jamal Ismail
  • Labirin Al Maut Labryinth of Al Maut by Noor Aisya Buang
  • மரயானைThe Wooden Elephant by சித்துராஜ் பொன்ராஜ்  (Sithuraj Ponraj )
  • வண்டியும்ஒரு நாள் ஓடத்திலேறும்  Carriage will also board the Barge a day by அமீதாம்மாள்  Yousuf Rowther Rajid

Readers’ Favorites

  • 《风向鸡李宁强的摄影诗》 Lee Leng Kiong’s Photography Poetry Book by 李宁强 (Lee Leng Kiong)
  • Lost at 15, Found at 50 by Ashwini Devare
  • Warna Sebuah Rahsia The Colour of Secret by Peter Augustine Goh
  • வண்டியும் ஒரு நாள் ஓடத்திலேறும் Carriage will also board the Barge a day by அமீதாம்மாள்  (Yousuf Rowther Rajid)

 This year’s awards were hashtagged #WhyWeWrite, a campaign based on writerly motivation, and the digital program was prefaced by six panel discussions online, themed #AtHomeWithSLP.

More from Publishing Perspectives on Singapore and its publishing scene is here, and more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

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.