The inaugural Singapore Prize, a $30,000 award to recognise local fiction and non-fiction books, has been awarded to author Sharlene Wen-Ning Teo. Teo’s first novel in the making, Ponti, is about a family’s struggle with their past and present. It is a “remarkable first book in the making”, according to jury chairman and writer Ian McEwan. Teo will also receive a one-year subscription to the literary magazine Epigram Books, a commissioned trophy and a gift code for audiobook platform Storytel. The winner’s work will be published next year in English by Epigram Books.
The prize is a part of the Dr Alan HJ Chan Spirit of Singapore Book Prize, which was launched by the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) on April 18. The book prize carries a $1 million fund from Confucian scholar and businessman Alan Chan, and aims to promote the writing of books that champion mindsets and values important to the shaping of Singapore. These include equality, diversity, religious harmony and pragmatism, SUSS said in a statement.
A panel of five judges from the disciplinary council and the university will judge the entries. The judges will have the discretion to decide on a single winner or multiple winners for each category. The prize is open to authors of any nationality who have written a book-length work on Singapore history that was published between 1 June 2021 and 31 May 2024. The book can be about any period, theme or field of Singapore’s history.
Other winners include Suratman Markasan, who won the Malay fiction prize for Honing The Pen Volume 2, and Wang Gungwu, who won the Chinese nonfiction prize for Home Is Where We Are Going. Tamil writers rma cureess and Rama Suresh each won the Readers’ Favourite awards, which are decided by public vote. The prizes were presented at an event attended by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong.
The winning book must have a significant Singapore element, and be written by a Singaporean or permanent resident. It must be published in English and available for purchase or distribution. Books in languages other than English and Chinese must be translated into English. Self-published works are not eligible for entry. The finalists and the top 12 winners will each receive a cash prize of $3,000, a commissioned trophy and a 12-month gift code for audiobook platform Storytel. In addition, the prize will be featured in the book fair programmed by the National Library Board.
The shortlisted books are available at all major bookstores and online. To see the full list of books, visit the NLB website. NLB will also feature some of the shortlisted works in an exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore from Feb 23 to March 3. The exhibition, titled NLB’s Singapore Prize: Celebrating the Best in Literature and the Arts, is free to the public. It will be accompanied by a series of workshops and talks.