Literary award for novel with a soft touch

Associate Professor Chandani Lokuge

Associate Professor Chandani Lokugé

Associate Professor Chandani Lokuge of the School of English, Communications and Performance Studies has received an award for her latest novel.

At a ceremony at Sri Lanka Foundation Auditorium in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 11 September, Associate Professor Lokuge's novel Softly, As I Leave You was awarded the 2013 Godage National Literary Award for Best Novel.

Published by Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, the second edition was published in Sri Lanka by leading publisher, Perera-Hussein, qualifying the novel for the Godage award.

Softly, As I Leave You captures the story of one woman's struggle to reconcile the many different aspects of her life, and was inspired by a short story that was originally published in the literary journal Meanjin. 

The award judges were particularly moved by Associate Professor Lokuge's "effortless" use of language to weave plots and characters.

"There is force and there is caress in her language, in description and comment; a flavour that remains in the tongue of the mind long after the words have been consumed," the judges said in their assessment of the novel.

Associate Professor Lokuge said the award was a significant honour.

"Dozens of new novels are reviewed each year for this prestigious award, and to be singled out in this way, along with a glowing review, is a rewarding achievement," Associate Professor Lokuge said.

“I feel honoured and moved that my work is celebrated in this way in my homeland."

She is the author of two previous internationally acclaimed novels, If the Moon Smiled and Turtle Nest, as well as a collection of short fiction, Moth and Other Stories. Her short stories have been widely anthologised. As Editor of the Oxford Classics Reissues series, she has published six critical editions of Indian women’s writing in English. 

Associate Professor Lokuge has recently returned from her appointment as the 2012/2013 Le Studium International Research Chair, awarded by the Le Studium Advanced Studies Institute in Loire Valley, France.

The Godage National Literary Awards are organised by Godage Publishers, the biggest in Sri Lanka. Since 1993, Godage have awarded prizes for literary excellence with categories for novels, short stories, poetry, and translations into Sinhala or Tamil. Judged by a panel of experts in each area, the award is a significant reflection of local acceptance and appreciation of literary talent.

Other contenders for the award included Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera, which was the Commonwealth Wealth Writers' Prize 2013 Regional Winner (Asia).