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'Solo' by Rana Dasgupta wins Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2010

New Delhi, April 12 (IANS) Delhi-based writer Rana Dasgupta Monday won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for the best book "Solo", the story of a Bulgarian centenarian who lives through the 20th century and daydreams of the 21st.

Glenda Guest of Australia won the prize for the best first book "Siddon Rock", known for its rich cast of characters and a wonderful blend of everyday with fantasy.

The prizes were given away by Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor at a star-studded ceremony in the capital's India International Centre.

Addressing the ceremony, Tharoor said he was delighted that Delhi played host to the Commonwealth awards this year.

"The awards are not a celebration of colonisation but a celebration of English as a language that binds us together," he said.

This is the first time the Commonwealth Writers' awards ceremony was being held in India, which will also host the Commonwealth Games in October.

The prize for the best book carried a purse of 10,000 pounds and the best first book 5,000 pounds.

The winner had to compete with seven regional winners of the best first book and the best book from Africa, the Carribbean and Canada, South Asia-Europe, South East Asia-Pacific regions.

The list of regional winners included Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani (Nigeria), Marie Heese (South Africa), Shandi Mitchell (Canada), Daniyal Mueenuddin (Pakistan), Rana Dasgupta (India), Glenda Guest (Australia) and Albert Wendt (Samoa).

Commenting on the nature of the entries this year, Mark Collins, director of the Commonwealth Foundation, said: "The level of entries this year has been absolutely outstanding and the competition fierce. Taken as a whole, the eight winning books - from Australia, Canada, Nigeria, Pakistan, Samoa, South Africa and the UK - are reaching out to readers across all cultures. These compelling works offer strong insight, spirit and voice about the incredible diversity, history and life of the Commonwealth."

The 2010 pan-Commonwealth panel of judges to decide the overall winners included Justice Nicholas Hasluck (chair of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize), Elinor Sisulu (Africa), Antonia MacDonald Smythe, Muneeza Shamsie and Anne Brewster and Delhi-based makarand Paranjpaye.

The 10,000 pound best book prize in 2009 was awarded to Australian writer Christos Tsiolkas for "The Slap" and Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif won the best first book prize for "A Case of Exploding Mangoes" in the awards ceremony in New Zealand.

The Commonwealth Writers' Prize was established in 1987 jointly by the Commonwealth Foundation and the Macquarie Group Foundation. The foundation is an inter-governmental body working to help civil society organisations promote democracy, development and cultural understanding in Commonwealth countries.

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