Sonny Liew's widely acclaimed and popular book The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is the first graphic novel to make the shortlist for the biennial Singapore Literature Prize.
It is among five titles shortlisted in the English-language fiction category. This was announced yesterday in a press statement by the organiser, National Book Development Council.
A record 235 books were submitted this year for the Singapore Literature Prize, which recognises the best in local writing.
Of these, 49 books have been shortlisted for the prize in 12 categories, worth a total of $120,000 in cash. These will be given out on July 14 at a ceremony to winners in the three categories of fiction, non-fiction and poetry in each of Singapore's four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
The 235 submissions for the prize represent a sizable increase from the 2014 edition, which attracted 182 entries in total.
Many will be watching this year's results eagerly to see if The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye wins in its category.
Mr Edmund Wee, publisher of Epigram Books which was behind the book, says: "It's a landmark book and I hope Sonny Liew wins. He deserves it."
The National Arts Council had revoked an $8,000 publishing grant for the politics-themed book last year as "its sensitive content, depicted in visuals and text, did not meet its funding conditions".
The controversy, however, seemed to drive book sales - it has entered a fifth print run and has sold about 9,000 copies here so far. It also won Book Of The Year at last night's Singapore Book Awards, which recognises the best in book publishing in Singapore.
In the other categories, this year's competition is the stiffest in the English and Tamil poetry categories, which have six shortlisted entries each.
Math Paper Press, an imprint under independent bookstore BooksActually, is behind four of the English nominees: Deeds Of Light by Tse Hao Guang, I Didn't Know Mani Was A Conceptualist by Desmond Kon, We Were Always Eating Expired Things by Cheryl Julia Lee and The Lover's Inventory by Cyril Wong.
BooksActually's founder Kenny Leck tells The Straits Times: "It's a good sign for Singapore literature that there are so many poetry submissions, no matter whether they are published by us, other publishers or self-published."
The other two English poetry nominees are Ethos Books' After The Fall (dirges among ruins) by Eric Tinsay Valles and Landmark Books' One Thousand And One Nights by Gwee Li Sui.
The shortlisted Tamil poetry entries are Adolescent Love by Naa Aandeappan, Kaivilakku Kadavul by Segar Muniandy, Alai Pidunkiya Sorkal by Malarvizhi Elangovan, Kaatraai Kadanthaai by Sithuraj Ponjaz, 4 Flowered Garland For Singapore by Varadharajan AK, and The Face Of The Soul by Saba Muthunatarajan.
The titles on the English fiction shortlist represent a nod to the varied forms of fiction that Singaporean authors are producing. Apart from the graphic novel Charlie Chan, the others are a translated work and three short story collections: The Widower by Mohamed Latiff Mohamed translated by playwright Alfian Sa'at; It Never Rains On National Day by Jeremy Tiang (both by Epigram Books); Moth: Stories by Leonora Liow (Ethos Books) and Nine Cuts (Math Paper Press) by Audrey Chin.
The Straits Times Press also scored a nomination in the English non-fiction category for When The Party Ends, a book that details the rise of China by former Straits Times journalist Peh Shing Huei.
Peh is nominated alongside Who Is Magic Babe Ning? by Ning Cai (Marshall Cavendish), The Sound Of SCH: A Mental Breakdown, A Life Journey by Danielle Lim (Ethos Books), Let The People Have Him - Chiam See Tong: The Early Years by Loke Hoe Yeong and In Time, Out Of Place by Chinese writer You Jin, translated by Shelly Bryant (both by Epigram Books).
That is the second nomination for Cultural Medallion recipient You Jin, who also earned a nomination in the Chinese non-fiction category for her biography of her parents, titled Father And I.
She says: "The Chinese and English literary worlds seldom intersect, so it is meaningful to me to receive this recognition now that my works have crossed over into the English-speaking world."
• For the complete shortlist and more information on the Singapore Literature Prize, go to www.facebook.com/singaporeliteratureprize
Correction note: An earlier version of the story stated that Flowered Garland For Singapore by Varadharajan AK was one of the shortlisted entries. This is incorrect. The name of the poetry entry should be 4 Flowered Garland For Singapore.