Hardbeatnews, LONDON, England, Fri. Mar. 24, 2006: A Barbados-based, Guyanese national has become the first from his country since 1991 to win the Overall Best First Book category in the Commonwealth Writers Prize.
Mark McWatt, who is an alumnus of the University of Toronto, and Leeds University and currently the head of the English Department at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus, Barbados, won for his book, ‘Suspended Sentences: Fictions of Atonement.’ He received £3,000 for the novel, published by Peepal Tree Press.
In the book, McWatt’s characters “circle multiple challenges as they throw off the yoke of colonialism in Guyana.” The judges described his collection of stories as “refracting light like a powerful and many-facetted diamond.”
In commenting on the win, McWatt was quoted in a statement as saying, “I’m very happy to have won the overall prize for Best First Book, especially since I have come to know, over the past days, the work of the other regional winners and to realize how wonderful all the competing books are.”
Prior to his fist novel, McWatt has published two collections of poetry; Interiors (1989) and The Language of Eldorado (1994), which won the Guyana Prize. He has also published widely in journals on aspects of Caribbean literature and is joint editor of the Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse (2005).
Pauline Melville is the first Guyanese to win the overall Best Book prize for Shape Shifter. She won in 1991.
Meanwhile, the Caribbean and Canada regional winner for Best Book was Lisa Moore’s Alligator published by Anansi Press.
Kate Grenville of Australia won this year for Overall Best Book with her ‘The Secret River.’ She won £10,000.
The overall winners of the 20th Commonwealth Writers’ Prize were announced on March 14th by His Royal Highness, The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, at The State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.
The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, awarded annually, aims to reward the best in Commonwealth fiction written in English, by both established and new writers, and to take their work to a wider audience.