The Singapore prize is a biennial award for literary works written by Singaporean authors in any of the country’s four official languages. The prize is organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore with the support of the National Arts Council and the National Library Board.
This year’s winners have been announced at a ceremony on Monday night (April 16). The SLP awards top prizes of $10,000 for fiction, non-fiction and poetry in Chinese, English, Malay and Tamil.
It is the first time that non-fiction has been awarded alongside fiction, and reflects an increasing interest in promoting literary works that are not strictly tied to an academic discipline. It also recognises the importance of the literary voice, which has become a vital part of Singapore’s culture and identity.
There are many books that explore the history of Singapore, but few have a personal slant. That’s why the shortlist for the NUS History Prize this year includes historical tomes such as Seven Hundred Years: A History of Singapore by Kwa Chong Guan, Tan Tai Yong and Peter Borschberg, as well as novels and non-fiction that focus on average Singaporeans like Sembawang by Kamaladevi Aravindan or Home Is Where We Are by Derek Heng.
The National University of Singapore’s history department is presenting the prize to six authors, including historian Timothy P. Barnard for his historical tome Imperial Creatures.
This is one of the few Singapore-themed prizes that does not have a set criteria, and instead is open to any work that focuses on Singapore in some way. It is a good choice for those interested in the country’s history, but who don’t feel that they can compete with the heavyweight titles of the big-name history books.
Singapore has a rich history, and the prize celebrates it. The prize was founded in 2014 and will be awarded every three years, with the initial award going to archaeologist John Miksic for his book Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300-1800.
It is a great honour to receive the Singapore prize, and to be in the company of such outstanding writers, researchers, scholars and academics. But it is not without its challenges.
For example, it can be hard to get a hold of a Nobel laureate and their team, so they don’t always get to spend as much time in Singapore as they might want. However, if they have a connection in the country and are keen to meet with local students or experts, it can be a valuable experience.
The prize also comes with a number of travel and hospitality perks that can be valuable to the winner. They include a prestigious tour of Singapore’s attractions, including the Marina Bay Sands Resort and Gardens by the Bay, as well as an invitation to attend a dinner at the Singapore Art Museum.
Aside from that, it is also possible to get some additional rewards, such as free tickets to the equine competitions at the National Stadium.