Commonwealth literary prize winners named

Shehan Karunatilaka and Emma Martin Shehan Karunatilaka and Emma Martin won £10,000 and £5,000 respectively

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Writers from Sri Lanka and New Zealand have won the Commonwealth Foundation's literary prizes for 2012.

Shehan Karunatilaka from Sri Lanka picked up the £10,000 Commonwealth Book Prize for his debut novel Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize, worth £5,000, was won by New Zealand's Emma Martin for Two Girls in a Boat.

The awards, which were presented at the Hay Festival, aim to showcase new literary talent in the Commonwealth.

Karunatilaka said: "It's a privilege to be part of a global prize that has recognised so many great writers over the years. I feel deeply honoured."

His book tells the story of a retired hard-drinking sports journalist who tries to track down the elusive Pradeep Mathew - who he considers the greatest cricketer of all time.

The chair of the Commonwealth Book Prize, Margaret Busby, described Karunatilaka's novel as a "fabulously enjoyable read".

Emma Martin, from Wellington, said winning the short story prize was "a wonderful and unexpected honour".

"Writing can be a solitary business, so to receive any award is immensely encouraging," she added.

Bernardine Evaristo, chair of the short story prize, said: "Two Girls in a Boat fulfilled the judges' brief that the winning entry have linguistic flair, originality, depth and daring."

The awards were handed over at the Hay Festival by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who won the Orange Prize in 2007.

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