Tahmima Anam Receives Commonwealth Writers Award

Inspired by her parents and their tales of being freedom fighters during the Bangladesh Liberation War, Tahmima Anam brought the stories of many to life, with her first novel, named A Golden Age. Living in Bangladesh for two years to research her book and talking to other freedom fighters, Tahmima Anam was able to write a novel so spellbinding, that it caught the attention of the public and the Commonwealth, leading to her receiving the Commonwealth writer’s award for Overall Best First Book.

Even though Tahmima Anam was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, she spent her childhood in various cities, such as Bangkok, Paris and New York. Writing seemed to be in her blood as her father is the editor of the English Bangladeshi newspaper and her grandfather, Abdul Mansur Ahmed, is a legendary political satirist. She studied at Harvard University and the Royal Holloway College and in 2001 she began her journey on documenting the 1971 war.

Through her extensive research, and by amalgamating the many stories of heartache, bravery, hope and healing, she re-created the characters and the turbulent times during the war. A Golden Age follows a mother and widow, Rehana Haque, and the changes in her life that were brought on by the Bangladesh Liberation War. Anam portrays her characters vividly, and takes the reader on an adventure of survival, struggle and anticipation to a better future.

By accepting her award for the Overall Best First Book, Tahmima Anam has become the first Bengali to receive Commonwealth recognition. A panel of six judges, from different countries, was selected to vote on the winners for the Overall Best Book and Best First Book. Z Pallo Jordan, South African Minister of Arts and Culture, handed over monetary awards of £10,000 to Lawrence Hill for Overall Best Book (The Book of Negroes) and £5,000 to Tahmima Anam for Best First Book. The Awards ceremony took place in the picturesque Franschhoek in South Africa, at the Franschhoek Literary Festival on 18 May 2008.

A very appreciative, and yet humble, Tahmima Anam was quoted on saying: “I’m honored and humbled to be the first ever Bangladeshi winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. I wrote A Golden Age because I wanted the story of the Bangladesh war to reach an international audience. It is a story of great tragedy, but also represents a moment of hope and possibility for my sometimes troubled country… I thank the Commonwealth Foundation, the judges, the supporters and the organizers of the Prize for giving me this wonderful opportunity.” No doubt the literary world will be waiting in anticipation for Anam’s second masterpiece to be released and no country could be prouder than Bangladesh, for her achievements.