A book prize for Singapore has become the richest in the country’s history, with a $30,000 pot for its winner. It aims to promote the writing of books that champion mindsets and values important to the country. These include “equality, religious harmony, meritocracy and pragmatism”, the National University of Singapore’s SUSS said in a statement on the new award.
The winner of the Singapore Prize for Books, which is supported by the city’s government, will be announced in October. The award is organised by Arts House Limited and co-sponsored by the National Arts Council and Singapore Book Council. It also comes with an engraved trophy. A total of 31 books were submitted to the panel of judges, which was chaired by NUS Asia Research Institute distinguished fellow Kishore Mahbubani.
This year, it’s the stories of ordinary Singaporeans that are centre stage. The shortlist for this year’s NUS History Prize includes the historical tome Seven Hundred Years: A History of Singapore (2019, available here) by Kwa Chong Guan, Tan Tai Yong, Peter Borschberg and Derek Heng, as well as novelist Kamaladevi Aravindan’s Sembawang (2020, available here), which details life in a suburban estate across five decades. They all forgo the traditional view of history as a record of big movers and shakers, and instead focus on the lives of ordinary citizens.
NUS Asia Research Institute senior advisor (university and global relations) Kishore Mahbubani, who mooted the prize in a Straits Times column in 2014, said: “The famous American social scientist Benedict Anderson once said that nations are ‘imagined communities’. And shared imagination, especially in the form of our own history, is a critical glue holding societies together today.”
Meanwhile, the NUS Earthshot Prize will be awarded in Singapore tonight to recognise individuals and organisations that have helped to create sustainable economies. The prize is named after President John F Kennedy’s 1962 moonshot speech, which challenged Americans to reach the Moon by the end of that decade. The Prince of Wales will present the awards to winners at The Istana palace during a four-day visit, which will see him visit a range of the nation’s most significant heritage sites.
The royal’s trip is part of his engagements in Southeast Asia, to promote his work with local organisations fighting climate change and preserving wildlife. During his stay, the royal will take part in a United for Wildlife summit featuring representatives of law enforcement agencies, conservation groups and corporations that are working to combat the trade in illegal wildlife products, which is estimated to be worth US$20 billion annually. He will also try his hand at dragon boating and meet Singaporeans who are tackling environmental challenges. During his last visit to the city in 2012, the heir to the British throne was joined by his wife Princess Catherine.