The Singapore Prize aims to reward works that tell the stories of Singapore’s past and its place in Southeast Asia. It is open to both fiction and non-fiction, in any language – Chinese, Malay or Tamil – and is supported by the National Book Council of Singapore and the National Library Board.
The winner will receive a cash award of SGD3,000 plus a trophy. It will be presented by the guest of honour, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong. The public will also vote for their favourite titles in the Readers’ Favourite category – and winning writers will receive $1,000 each.
In the shortlist, there are works that explore Singapore’s war-torn history, its rise as a global business hub and its role in Asia’s cultural evolution. Some authors also focus on its migrant population and how it has contributed to the country’s social and cultural identity.
Some of the works are rooted in a personal sense of Singapore’s history, such as Kamaladevi Aravindan’s Sembawang, which takes the form of a novel set on an estate in Singapore and tells the story of its eponymous eldest daughter. Another is the work of archaeologist John Miksic, who explores the history of Singapore’s development as a trading hub on the Silk Road in the 1300s-1800s.
As well as a cash prize, the prize will offer researchers a platform to present their findings at a national conference in October and the chance to publish their discoveries in a monograph. It will also provide a venue for networking with leading historians and scholars.
This year’s judges included novelist Balli Kaur Jaswal and poet Yong Shu Hoong, and National Library Board assistant chief executive Gene Tan. A S$1 million donation from DBS Foundation has helped fund the prize, which will be awarded for the first time next year.
Almost half of the submissions were made by first-time writers, according to the Book Council. The winners are a mix of established and emerging talent. This year, Suratman Markasan and Wang Gungwu were both awarded their first prizes.
In addition to the cash awards, each winning writer will receive a hand-crafted trophy and a 12-month gift code for StoryTel. They will also have their writing featured on a website and a blog.
Eight of the 12 winners are first-time recipients, and four of them were honoured for their contributions as the oldest authors in SLP’s history: Suratman Markasan and Wang Guanwu, each at 91 years old, and Rafiqah Ismail, who is just six months older.
They are joined by Rama Suresh, a Tamil writer who won both the readers’ favourite Tamil and English categories.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony at Victoria Theatre on Aug 25. Veteran poet Thumboo will be awarded the SBC Achievement Award, while the readers’ favourite awards, determined by public vote, will go to Ali bin Salim, Daryl Qilin Yam, Pan Cheng Lui and rmaa cureess.
The Singapore Prize is a biennial literary competition that recognises outstanding works of literature written in any of the country’s four official languages – Chinese, English, Malay and Tamil. It is administered by the National Book Development Council of Singapore with support from the National Arts Council and the National Library Board.