Rana Dasgupta, Daniyal Mueenuddin win Commonwealth writer awards

New Delhi, March 11 : Indian novelist Rana Dasgupta’s ‘Solo’ and Pakistan-based author Daniyal Mueenuddin’s ‘In Other Rooms, Other Wonders’ were Thursday declared regional winners of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for 2010 in the European and South Asian categories.

While “Solo” was declared the best book, “In Other Rooms…” was selected as the best first book by an author.

Presented by the Commonwealth Foundation with support from the Macquarie Group Foundation, the global winners of the award will be announced in the capital April 12.

A five-day literary event in the run-up to the awards ceremony April 12 will begin April 7 with a series of interactive literary sessions. This is the first time that the event is being held in the Indian capital, which will also the Commonwealth Games in October.

The two books from the South Asian and European regions will have to compete with winners from Africa, Caribbean and Canada next month for the global prizes in the best book and the best first book categories, director of the Commonwealth Foundation, Mark Collins, said Thursday.

Other regional winners declared Thursday include “The Double Crown” (Best Book) by Marie Heese and “I Do Not Come to You By Chance” (Best First Book) by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani from Africa; “Galore” by Michael Crummey (Best Book); “Under this Unbroken Sky (Best First Book)” by Shandi Mitchell from the Canada and Caribbean region; and “The Adventures of Vela” by Albert Wendt and “Siddon Rock” by Glenda Guest in the Southeast Asia and Pacific region.

Collins said the entries this year had been “absolutely outstanding and competition was fierce”.

“The prize identifies the best of Commonwealth fiction in English and is a way to spot talent and create new literary heroes from the Commonwealth. Taken as a whole, the eight winning books from Australia, Canada, Nigeria, Pakistan, Samoa, South Africa and United Kingdom reach out to readers across all cultures,” Collins said.

“In its 24th year, the Writers’ Prize has a strong track record of discovering new international stars. The winners of best first book and best book from South Asia and Europe will join some of the biggest names in fiction to have been recognised by the prize, including Indra Sinha and Vikram Chandra from the region,” officials said.

Pakistan-based writer Muneeza Shamsie, the regional chair for the prize, said that the judges were impressed by the quality of the submissions.

“The shortlists revealed their range and diversity – but the two winning entries were outstanding. In the best book category, ‘Solo’ by Rana Dasgupta, which revolves around Ulrich, a blind 100 year-old Bulgarian in Sofia, was remarkable for its innovation, ambition and courage as well as its elegant prose. The novel interrogates the past through Ulrich’s memories and his thwarted hopes, and blends the present and future through his daydreams,” Shamsie said.

In the best first book category, “In Other Rooms…” by Mueenuddin was considered remarkable by the judges “for its clear, exact prose and its wide scope, ranging from rural Pakistan to Paris”, Shamsie said.

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