A history book about Singapore has won a prize worth more than $30,000 — the richest for any local fiction or non-fiction work in the country. The Dr Alan HJ Chan Spirit of Singapore Book Prize was launched on April 18 at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS). It aims to promote writing that champions mindsets and values important to shaping the nation. These include equality, religious harmony, meritocracy and resilience. The first edition is valued at a record $30,000 and will be awarded for books published in 2022 or later.
The inaugural Singapore History Prize was won by Prof John Miksic for his book Singapore And The Silk Road Of The Sea, 1300 – 1800. A senior professor at NUS, Miksic said his work was the result of five years of research, including interviewing people who lived in the slum area where he grew up. A five-member jury panel selected the winner, consisting of NUS Asia Research Institute distinguished fellow Kishore Mahbubani; novelist Meira Chand; historian Peter Coclanis; economist Lam San Ling and historian Miksic.
Besides the top award, which carries a cash prize of $50,000 Singapore dollars ($35,800), there are four other awards given out to shortlisted works. Two are given out for fiction and two for creative non-fiction. There is also a readers’ choice award, supported by the publisher Epigram Books, which comes with book-purchase vouchers. This year, more than 4,000 people voted for the prize.
The winners of this year’s SLP were announced at a ceremony that made its return to in-person after two years of restrictions and social distancing. The event was held at Victoria Theatre and drew some 550 guests, with pop bands Bastille and One Republic performing. The trophies were crafted with recycled materials.
This year’s SLP had the highest number of entries in its 25-year history, with 235 submissions in the Chinese, English and Malay categories. The awards are the most prominent biennial literary prizes in Singapore and were established by the National Book Development Council of Singapore.
The prestigious Singapore Literature Prize, which was founded in 1992, is the most coveted among local literature awards. It recognises outstanding publications in the Singapore languages in English, Chinese or Malay and is sponsored by the National Book Development Council of Singapore. The prize has had a number of names and formats over the years, but it remains the most important literary award in Singapore. It is the only award in the world to honour works of fiction as well as non-fiction, and is regarded as the most important of its kind in Southeast Asia. Its prize money is the largest of any literary award in the region. In addition to the main prizes, it has a youth critic award and a public choice award.