Singapore Literature Prize: 15 Winners, Four Languages

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In 12 categories, the 2022 biennial Singapore Literature Prize winners are drawn from 43 writers in Tamil, Malay, Chinese, and English.

The 2022 Singapore Literature Prize ceremony was held at the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall complex on Empress Way. Image – Getty iStockphoto: TK Kurikawa

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

Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Nonfiction
Tonight (August 25) at Singapore’s Victoria Theatre, the Singapore Literature Prize has marked its return to a physical-format to award 12 winners in the island state’s four languages: Chinese, English, Malay, and Tamil.

In its 30th year—the program was created in 1992, and began operating in four languages in 2004—the prize’s theme this time is “resonance” and the focus is on how literature can trigger emotions and memories. Organizers say their choice of resonance as a focus has to do with what some people are thinking about in terms of their relationships, as their experience of the still-ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic wears on in its third year.

Five writers were shortlisted in two or more categories, including Clara Chow, who has been shortlisted in English fiction, English creative nonfiction and in the Chinese poetry categories. She’s the first writer in program’s records to be shortlisted in three categories and two languages.

Wang Gungwu

The top prize in this competition carries a purse of 3,000 Singapore dollars (US2,158) and a commissioned trophy. Each winner also gets a hand-crafted trophy and a 12-month gift code to StoryTel.

In this year’s pool, more than half the writers were shortlisted for their first time. Suratman Markasan (Honing the Pen, Volume 2) and Wang Gungwu (Home Is Where We Are Going) have made their marks this evening as the oldest winners of the prize. Each of them is 91 years old, and both are writing in creative nonfiction—Markesan in Malay and Gungwu in English.

Suratman Markasan

Tamil writer ரமா சுரேஷ் (Rama Suresh) took two awards, in both the Tamil fiction and readers’ favorite Tamil category.

More than 4,000 readers voted in the consumer choice category, roughly twice the 2020 cohort of voters in this biennial award program.

In the readers’ favorite category, the four winners—Ali bin Salim, Daryl Qilin Yam, 潘正镭 (Pan Cheng Lui) and ரமா சுரேஷ் (Rama Suresh)each receives a cash prize of 1,000 Singapore dollars (US$719), and the voters have a chance to win book-purchase vouchers worth 50 Singapore dollars (US$35). 

Winners of the 2022 Singapore Literature Prize at Victoria Theatre. Image: Singapore Book Council

Singapore Literature Prize 2022 Winners

Fiction

  • English: Jee Leong Koh, Snow at 5 p.m.: Translations of an Insignificant Japanese Poet
  • Chinese: 《丹那美拉的潮声》by Xi Ni Er, Sound of the Tides
  • Malay: Fairhan Bahron, Box Head
  • Tamil: அம்பரம் by Rama Suresh, The Sky, Atmosphere/Infinite Space, as One of the Elements

Creative Nonfiction

  • English: Wang Gungwu, Home Is Where We Are
  • Chinese: 《小东西》by Wong Koi Tet, Little Things
  • Malay: Suratman Markasan, Honing the Pen, Volume 2
  • Tamil: மொழிவழிக் கனவு by Azhagunila, Dream Through Language

Poetry

  • English: Yeow Kai Chai, One to the Dark Tower
  • Chinese: 《我们不知道的归类》by Yu Fan, Unable to Classify
  • Malay: Hartinah binte Ahmad, Gandoura
  • Tamil: லயாங் லயாங் குருவிகளின் கீச்சொலிகள் by Inbha, Layang Layang Bird

Readers’ Favorites

In this round of consumer voting, two of the “readers’ favorite” choices were shortlisted works of fiction, and two were works of creative nonfiction.

  • English: Daryl Qilin Yam, Shantih Shantih Shantih (fiction)
  • Chinese: 《太阳正走过半个下午》by Pan Cheng Lui, The Sun Just Past Mid-Afternoon (creative nonfiction)
  • Malay: Ali bin Salim, Kampong Keranji, 1948-1973 (creative nonfiction)
  • Tamil: அம்பரம் by Rama Suresh, The Sky, Atmosphere/Infinite Space, as One of the Elements (fiction)

You’ll find a complete list of shortlisted works and authors, categorized by language, here.

And for your review, here is a video presentation of the shortlists for this multifaceted awards program:

This is the 149th awards-related report that Publishing Perspectives has carried in the 157 days since our 2022 operations began on January 3.


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here, more on the Singapore publishing market is here, more on the Singapore Book Council is here, and more on the Singapore Literature Prize is here

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he 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.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (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.

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