I am disappointed to learn that the Commonwealth Writers Book Prize has been discontinued for 2014.
Commonwealth Writers has re-focused its prizes to concentrate on the Short Story. It will no longer offer the Commonwealth Book Prize.
Commonwealth Writers develops the craft of individual writers and builds communities of emerging voices which can influence the decision-making processes affecting their lives. The Short Story Prize aims to identify talented writers who will go on to inspire their local communities.
The Short Story Prize enables writers to enter from countries where there is little or no publishing industry. Authors writing in languages other than English are also able to enter stories translated into English. The Prize unearths and promotes the best new writing from across the Commonwealth, developing literary connections worldwide.
I think it’s an unfortunate decision. The previous book prize was a great way to discover writing from around the planet, and I wasn’t happy when they ‘refocussed’ it on emerging writers – because that denied opportunity to established writers. Dress it up how they like, it’s a funding cutback, surely, and especially in places with a limited book culture, established writers need the purchasing power of the privileged West for an income. How are we to know about the best of their books, eh?
As you can see from the tag ‘debut Australian fiction’ I do read plenty of emerging authors and have made some beaut discoveries through the CW Best First Book Prize, but I really liked finding out about the best of writing from Commonwealth countries. That’s how I discovered Caryl Philips, Michelle de Kretser, Aminata Forna, Rana Dasgupta, Marina Endicott, Lawrence Hill, Andrea Levy, Damon Galgut and Frances Itani.
And now the Powers That Be at the CW are limiting the prize to a form that doesn’t interest me much. I’ve been in the habit of buying one or two of the regional winners each year (and am currently reading Waiting for an Angel by Nigerian author Helon Habila) but I’ll probably take very little notice of this prize at all from now onward.
I guess I’ll have to depend on fellow bloggers to alert me to noteworthy novels, but I suspect that like me, they’ll be depending on places with a book prize culture to find out about them now.