The Singapore Prize Shortlist For the 30th Anniversary of Lee Kuan Yew
The Singapore Prize is a biennial award that recognises the best work of fiction and non-fiction written in English, Chinese or Malay by a Singaporean. Its winner is selected by an independent panel of judges and a public vote.
The Prize is named in honour of Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who helped establish the nation’s foundation and build a modern city-state from scratch. It is one of the most prestigious awards in Asia and comes with a cash prize of SGD 1 million (US$100,000).
This year’s shortlist includes works that explore the complexities of history, from the lives of ordinary people in the 1960s to the politics of detention. Kamaladevi Aravindan’s novel Sembawang, which is shortlisted in the fiction category, traces the lives of ordinary Singaporeans and their connections to the country’s political turmoil of the late 1960s.
Another novel, State Of Emergency by Jeremy Tiang, follows an extended family through leftist movements and detentions across Southeast Asia in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Its story is based in part on a real estate project in Singapore and offers an alternative view of the country’s history that focuses on ordinary citizens.
Other titles include a story by rmaa cureess about the lives of Tamil women living in a slum, and one by Clara Chow that examines the impact of social media on Singaporean society. It’s all set to be a tough choice for this year’s judges, who include veteran poet Thumboo and NUS Asia Research Institute distinguished fellow Kishore Mahbubani.
The prize also recognises the work of emerging writers and newcomers. For this year’s competition, 192 submissions were made in three categories, down from 224 in 2020, organisers said, with the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic having an impact on local publishing.
For its 30th anniversary, the prize’s theme this year is resonance – in the hope that literature can help trigger emotions and memories in an age where people are experiencing a coronavirus that’s still on the boil. The judges say they have chosen resonance because it mirrors what many people are feeling in relation to relationships, as the coronavirus wears on over the past few years.
Some of this year’s winners have never been shortlisted before – including Suratman Markasan in the Malay language and Wang Gungwu in the English category, who are both 91 years old. In addition to their cash prizes of $3,000, they will each receive a commissioned trophy and a gift code for audiobook platform Storytel.
A prestigious award for the best work of creative nonfiction by an Asian writer, the Prize is open to works in four languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. It was established in 1992 and has become an essential part of the Singaporean literary scene.
The Prize, named after Singapore’s first prime minister, is a biennial award that recognises works of fiction and non-fiction in English, Chinese or Malay by Singaporeans. Its winner is selected by an independent judge and a public vote.