In the global race to solve climate change, Singapore has emerged as a leader in developing itself into a clean and green garden city. But there’s much more to the nation’s story, and that’s why a new book prize is opening up to recognise local authors writing about the country’s past.
The Singapore Prize, which has been created in partnership with DBS, is open to both fiction and non-fiction works that explore the country’s history. Its organisers say that they want the prize to promote “writing which champions mindsets and values important to Singapore”. In addition to diversity, the team behind the prize have also highlighted equality, religious harmony, meritocracy and pragmatism as core values.
It will be held every three years, and this year’s winner is Kamaladevi Aravindan for her novel Sembawang (available here), which examines the lives of ordinary Singaporeans over a 50-year period. The book is one of four shortlisted books, including the NUS history prize-winning Imperial Creatures, which looks at the relationship between humans and animals in colonial Singapore. The prize is administered by the Department of History at the National University of Singapore, and is open to creators of any nationality.
This is the first time that the Singapore Prize has been awarded, and the team hope that it will encourage more people to read about their home country. Among the shortlisted works, the organisers have chosen to put a focus on resonance, which they define as how a work evokes emotions and memories.
As a result, the judging panel will be made up of literary experts and historians who will be looking for a book that will resonate with Singapore’s readership. The prize has been endorsed by the National Library Board, and the winner will be announced in November this year.
There are a few rules that applicants need to follow, though. To be eligible, the book must have been published between January 2017 and November 2020. Additionally, the work must be written in English and have a minimum of 100,000 words. The book is also required to have a table of contents and an index. The winners will be given a cash prize of SGD$50,000, and the winning works will be publicised in conjunction with a series of events that will form part of an event called Earthshot Week.
The organisers of the event hope that it will attract global leaders, businesses and investors who will be looking to explore opportunities with the winners and finalists. They will be encouraged to discuss how they can use the ideas in their books to accelerate solutions and bring about tangible action that will help to repair our planet. They will also be able to connect with Singapore’s growing community of innovators, entrepreneurs and community leaders who are committed to solving climate change. The programme will be run in partnership with Temasek Trust, GenZero and Conservation International, who will each bring their own expertise and resources to the event.