SINGAPORE – The lives of ordinary Singaporeans take centre stage on the shortlist for this year’s Singapore prize, with non-fiction work featuring personal slants and novels that eschew the traditional view of history as a record of big movers and shakers. This is evident in the six works up for the National University of Singapore (NUS) History Prize: Kwa Chong Guan’s Seven Hundred Years: A History Of Singapore (2019, available here), which traces the story of the nation from its beginnings; Tan Tai-Yong’s Imperial Creatures (2019, available here) on the human-animal bond in colonial times; Kamaladevi Aravindan’s novel Sembawang (2020, available here), detailing life in the estate of that name over five decades; and Hidayah Amin’s Leluhur: Singapore’s Kampong Gelam (2019, available here), which shines a light on everyday people in a time of rapid social change.
The NUS Singapore Prize is one of the most prestigious prizes awarded by the university and is open to works in English published from January 2017 to 30 November 2020. The work can be a historical tome, an academic study, or a piece of creative writing with clear historical themes. In its first three years of operation, the prize has been given out to three works: Archaeologist John Miksic won the inaugural prize in 2018, while historian Peter Borschberg shared it with his book, The Great Leap Forward: A History Of Modern China (2019).
A winner will be announced at a ceremony next month and will receive an award of S$100,000 ($67,500). In addition, the winning works will be included on the NUS Library’s Singapore Prize 2021 Collection, which comprises titles that have made a significant contribution to the understanding of Singapore’s history and its legacy. The collection also contains a comprehensive list of the shortlisted titles.
The winners will also get the opportunity to attend a seminar hosted by NUS and the British Council on how to write a book. The seminar will be taught by experienced publishers from both countries and will focus on the writing process, how to make your writing stand out, and how to promote your work to readers.
NUS will host an event to celebrate the winners in April and invite the public to join the celebrations. The event will feature performances by local and international artists, including a violin competition judging panel of Qian Zhou (Chair), Martin Beaver, Martin T:son Engstroem, Lee Kyung Sun, Mihaela Martin, and Joel Smirnoff. Violinists Dmytro Udovychenko, Anna Agafia Egholm, and Angela Sin Ying Chan will be rewarded with over USD $110,000 in cash and multiple concert engagements. The concert will be held at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music. The event is free to attend but registration is required. To register, click here.