Sri Lankan authors gear up for ‘The Gratiaen’

Saturday, 5 February 2011 01:57 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Standard Chartered Bank’s partnership with the annual Gratiaen Prize transforms the future of Sri Lankan writers in English.

Sri Lanka’s most important literary award in English, the Gratiaen Prize, supported by Standard Chartered Bank, will soon once again help to transform the future of Sri Lankan authors.

The award event, to be held on 21st May, annually recognizes one Sri Lankan writer for his or her achievement.  

Now on its 18th year, the Gratiaen Prize rewards the best writing in English of the year 2010. The three judges selected each year by the Gratiaen Trust make their choice from an increasing number of entries – in the past few years over 50 – submitted by authors and publishers. The entries include fiction, poetry, drama and literary memoir, either published during the last year or presented in manuscript form. Initially a short-list of five is chosen, and the winner is announced at the Gratiaen Prize award event. The value of the prize is Sri Lankan Rs 200,000.  

Standard Chartered’s Chief Executive, Anirvan Ghosh-Dastidar, on the bank’s support of the awards, said “The Gratiaen Prize recognizes the best work by a Sri Lankan author and Standard Chartered has been involved since its beginning. We are delighted to support the award with literary excellence as its sole focus”.

The Gratiaen Prize is named in memory of Doris Gratiaen, Michael Ondaatje’s mother. Ondaatje, a joint-winner of the prestigious Booker Prize in 1992 for his novel The English Patient, also a successful film, instituted the award in the same year with the Booker prize money. Since then it has been a major event in the island’s literary calendar.  Sri Lankan writers resident in the country are eligible to vie for the accolade, and over the years recipients have included both first-time and well-known authors.

The first winners of the Gratiaen Prize in 1993 were Carl Muller (The Jam Fruit Tree) and Lalitha Withanachchi (Wind Blows over the Hills). Subsequent winners include Prashani Rambukwella (Mythil’s Secret), Shehan Karunatilaka (Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Matthew), Vivemarie Vander Poorten (Nothing Prepares You), the late Nihal de Silva (Road from Elephant Pass), Elmo Jayawardene (Sam’s Story), Tissa Abeysekara (Bringing Tony Home), Sybil Wettasinghe (The Child in Me), Rajiva Wijesingha (Servants), and Punyakante Wijenaike (Amulet).