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The Gratiaen Prize


The Gratiaen Prize, which was instituted by Michael Ondaatje in 1992 with the money he received as joint-winner of the Booker Prize for his novel The English Patient, is awarded annually to the best work of literary writing in English by a resident Sri Lankan. The Prize, intended to encourage English writing by Sri Lankans, is named after Michael Ondaatje’s mother, Doris Gratiaen. Initially, the Prize was administered by Ian Goonetileke, the former librarian, University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, but later handed over to the Gratiaen Trust, which was set up for the purpose.

The three judges selected each year by the Trust make their choice from an increasing number of entries – in the past few years over 50 – submitted by authors and publishers. The entries include fiction, poetry, drama and literary memoir, either published during the last year or presented in manuscript form. Initially a short-list of five is chosen, and the winner is announced at the Gratiaen Prize award event. The value of the Prize is Sri Lankan Rupees 200,000.

To quote Ondaatje's own words at the first-ever presentation of the Prize: “The Gratiaen Prize is an attempt on one level to share the wealth. I was lucky. But more important it is to celebrate and test and trust ourselves. To select and argue about the literature around us. To take it seriously, not just to see it as a jewel or a decoration."


2012 Gratiaen Prize Winner


Lal Medawattegedera wins the Gratiaen Prize 2012 for his unpublished novel Playing Pillow Politics at MGK.

Medawattegedera is the twentieth recipient of the Prize and the chairperson of the judges Jayantha Dhanapala commenting on the high quality of entries this year commended the Gratiaen Trust for having "leavened our cultural scene" over the past 20 years.

Speaking on the winning entry Dhanapala observed that Playing Pillow Politics at MGK "is an unusual and extraordinary novel” and that it "is a work of our times and yet not just of our times. It is exciting and formally quite inventive, mixing realism with the allegorical."

Lal receives Prize from Walter Perera, Chairperson of the Trust





Previous Winners

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