The Sunday Leader

Standard Chartered Bank Hosts The Annual Gratiaen Prize

  • The Bank Continues to Promote Art and Culture through the Gratiaen Trust

Prashani Rambukwella was awarded the Gratiaen Prize 2009 for her book, Mythil’s Secret at the Gratiaen Prize-giving event on Saturday, 8th May at the residence of Simon Morris, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank. The winner was among five shortlisted candidates announced last month after their literary work was evaluated by a panel of judges.

The event is a testament to Standard Chartered Bank’s continued contribution towards promoting art and culture in Sri Lanka; the Bank has been the event-sponsor of the Gratiaen Trust for almost a decade.

“We are happy to be a key part of this trust as it continues to provide a chance for all writers to be recognized at this special forum. We consider it our responsibility to be part and parcel of the commitment made towards fostering the arts in Sri Lanka,” the CEO said.

The Gratiaen is the premier literary prize for creative writing in English in Sri Lanka. The bank continues its support of the arts by being the sponsor of the Gratiaen Trust as part of its pledge to create a flourishing and promising environment for modern writers to express themselves.

Shehan Karunatilaka was awarded the Gratiaen Prize in 2008 for his manuscript Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, which has recently been published to great acclaim.

It all started in 1992, when Michael Ondaatje won the Booker McConnell Prize for his novel The English Patient. The following year he founded the Gratiaen Trust and gifted the prize money to institute a literary award in Sri Lanka, awarded annually to the best work of literary writing in English by a resident Sri Lankan. The judges make their selection from entries that cover fiction, poetry, drama or literary memoir either published during the last year or in manuscript form.

About Standard Chartered

Standard Chartered PLC, listed on both London and Hong Kong stock exchanges, ranks among the top 25 companies in the FTSE-100 by market capitalisation. The London-headquartered group has operated for over 150 years in some of the world’s most dynamic markets, leading the way in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Its income and profits have more than doubled over the last five years primarily as a result of organic growth and supplemented by acquisitions.

Standard Chartered aspires to be the best international bank for its customers across its markets. The group derives more than 90 per cent of its operating income and profits from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, generated from its wholesale and consumer banking businesses. The group has over 1600 branches and outlets located in over 70 countries. The extraordinary growth of its markets and businesses creates exciting and challenging international career opportunities. Leading by example to be the right partner for its stakeholders, the group is committed to building a sustainable business over the long term and is trusted worldwide for upholding high standards of corporate governance, social responsibility, environmental protection and employee diversity. It employs more than 70,000 people, nearly half of whom are women. The Group’s employees are of 125 nationalities, of which about 70 are represented in the senior management.

About 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 of the University of Ceylon in 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 Rs. 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.”

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