Congratulations, Christos Tsiolkas

The Slap‘s now won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for South East Asia and the Pacific. Nice — and characteristic — quote from Christos here.

Tsiolkas’s book was up against Helen Garner’s The Spare Room, Tim Winton’s Breath, Joan London’s The Good Parents, Aravind Adiga’s Between The Assassinations and New Zealander Paula Morris’s Forbidden Cities in the regional category.

“Competition is a weird thing in the arts — how do you judge between such different writers?” Tsiolkas said before the ceremony yesterday.

The real reward, he said, was being acknowledged in such accomplished company. And, he added, “It’s nice to know Mum and Dad will be proud of this.”

In the three months since it came out in November, The Slap has sold 35,000 copies, according to publisher Allen & Unwin.

But Tsiolkas said books could not be written with sales or prizes in mind. “I wanted to write a contemporary novel set in my suburban world,” he said.

The Slap is about the ramifications of a man slapping someone else’s child at a backyard barbecue.

The Australian’s reviewer, Venero Armanno, wrote of it: “It’s often said that the best politicians are those who can instinctively divine the zeitgeist of their country’s centre. For the ones who can’t, I would place The Slap as mandatory bedside table reading.”

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, which is chaired by an Australian, Nicholas Hasluck, was established in 1987 to reward the best authors writing in English across the Commonwealth.

New Zealand author Mo Zhi Hong won the regional prize for best first book for The Year of The Shanghai Shark.

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

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