S'pore Literature prize goes to graphic novel for first time

Graphic novelist Sonny Liew's The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a vivid and satirical re-telling of Singapore's journey to nationhood, has also garnered acclaim from international publications such as Slate and The Economist.
Graphic novelist Sonny Liew's The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a vivid and satirical re-telling of Singapore's journey to nationhood, has also garnered acclaim from international publications such as Slate and The Economist.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Graphic novelist Sonny Liew has claimed yet another victory - this year's Singapore Literature Prize for English fiction - for his bestselling work The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a vivid and satirical re-telling of Singapore's journey to nationhood through the eyes of its eponymous comic artist.

The win marks the first time that the prize has been awarded to a graphic novel.

His book trumped Jeremy Tiang's It Never Rains On National Day; Mohamed Latiff Mohamed's The Widower translated by Alfian Sa'at; Leonora Liow's Moth: Stories; and Audrey Chin's Nine Cuts for the prize.

Published by Epigram Books, it has sold about 9,000 copies here, and was released overseas this year. It has also garnered acclaim from international publications such as Slate and The Economist.

Some 22 awards and $107,000 in prize money were presented at a ceremony at the Regent Hotel last night, to honour the best in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

The prize is organised by the National Book Development Council, with support from the National Arts Council.

The English prize for non-fiction was a tie between two first-time authors: Former Straits Times journalist Peh Shing Huei for his book When The Party Ends (Straits Times Press), which examines China's ascension as a world superpower; and polytechnic lecturer Danielle Lim's memoir, The Sound Of SCH: A Mental Breakdown, A Life Journey (Ethos Books), which captures her family's struggles in caring for an uncle battling mental illness

The English poetry prize also had joint winners: Desmond Kon and Cyril Wong, for their works I Didn't Know Mani Was A Conceptualist and The Lover's Inventory respectively. Both were published by independent publisher Math Paper Press.

The winner of each category receives a $10,000 cash award.

In the Malay fiction category, Peter Augustine Goh won for Air Mata di Arafah, and in the Tamil fiction category, the winner was Sithuraj Ponraj for Maariligal.

There was no winner for the Chinese fiction category, but two commendation awards were handed out to Chia Joo Ming for Exile Or Pursuit and Zhang Hui for Shuang Kou Ding Village - The Yesteryears.

Writer Yeng Pway Ngon received a merit award for his work Opera Costume.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore Literature prize goes to graphic novel for first time'. Print Edition | Subscribe