TWENTY outstanding stories have been shortlisted by an international judging panel for the world’s most global literature prize – the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The writers come from 15 countries across the Commonwealth including, for the first time, The Gambia.
Two Jamaican authors, Brian Heap and Sharma Taylor, join TT author Brandon McIvor on the shortlist
Often humorous and always intensely moving, the 20 stories range from speculative worlds to the everyday. They describe love and loss, death and legacy, the individual facing down prejudice; travel, displacement, and the search for home, said a media release.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from any of the Commonwealth’s 54 member states. It is the only prize in the world where entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish. Such linguistic diversity in a short story prize, in part, reflects the richness of the Commonwealth, not least its many and varied literary traditions, the release said.
The stories on the 2020 shortlist were selected from 5,107 entries from 49 Commonwealth countries.
Chair of the judges Ghanaian writer and editor Nii Ayikwei Parkes said in the release, “Beyond their basic plots, the best stories are elevated by the language in which they are told. In this judging process, the fine language has also undoubtedly been that of my fellow judges, who add nuance, colour, fun and a profound knowledge of trends in their regions to discussions. The result of the time we’ve spent indulging in the submissions to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is a shortlist of 20 unique stories. These stories, drawn from all over the globe, are as harrowing as they are uplifting, funny while being tragic – and defiant in the face of politics, bigotry and injustice. But, crucially, at a time like this, with the world beset with myriad challenges and a devastating virus, the stories are grounded in faith, hope and the humanity we all share.”
Due to the current covid19 pandemic, a short film has been commissioned of the shortlisted authors sharing their personal insights into how they have been affected by the virus in different parts of the world under the hashtag #StoriesToConnectUs. The film is available to watch at www.commonwealthwriters.org.
Anne T Gallagher AO, director-general of the Commonwealth Foundation, the intergovernmental organisation which administers the prize, said, “Once again, the short story prize has confirmed the depth and diversity of the literary culture across the Commonwealth of Nations: 54 countries that together represent over two billion people. We celebrate the authors on this shortlist for their technical and creative skill. Perhaps even more importantly, we thank them for the timely reminder of the power of storytelling, not least its ability to comfort, inspire and heal.”
Along with Parkes, other judges are: South African writer and musician Mohale Mashigo, executive director of the Singapore Books Council William Phuan, Canadian author Heather O’Neill, Trinidadian scholar and writer Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw and Australian writer and arts organiser Nic Low, who was himself shortlisted for the 2012 Commonwealth Short Story Prize earlier in his career.
The judges will choose a winner for each of the five regions – Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, Caribbean, and Pacific. On June 2, regional winners will be announced and on July 7, the overall winner will be revealed.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is administered by the Commonwealth Foundation, through its cultural initiative Commonwealth Writers.
Now in its ninth year, the prize has developed a strong reputation for discovering new writers and bringing them to a global audience.
Last year, Constantia Soteriou won the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her story Death Customs. Constantia’s story was the first translated entry to win the prize, and was translated from Greek into English by Lina Protopapa.
In 2018, Kevin Jared Hosein, from TT, won the prize for his Passage, which convinced the jury, chaired by the novelist and poet Sarah Hall, as “a truly crafted piece of fiction” that was “immediately and uniformly admired.”
The 2020 shortlisted stories will be published in the online magazine of Commonwealth Writers, adda (www.addastories.org), which features new writing from around the globe.
The 2020 shortlist:
The Dawning by Aba Asibon (Ghana)
When a Woman Renounces Motherhood by Innocent Chizaram Ilo (Nigeria)
Rites Evasion Maneuvers by Caleb Ozovehe Ajinomoh (Nigeria)
The Faraway Things by Alboricah Tokologo Rathupetsane (South Africa)
Fatou vs the Dictator by ML Kejera (The Gambia)
The Shedding by Nafisa A Iqbal (Bangladesh)
The Great Indian Tee and Snakes by Kritika Pandey (India)
The Teeth on the Bus Go Round and Round by Dinesh Devarajan (India)
Ouroboros, Ouroboros by Sharmini Aphrodite (Malaysia)
An Instruction Manual – How to Find Your Vagina by Maham Javaid (Pakistan)
Canada and Europe
Provenance by Jason Jobin (Canada)
The Eternally Obvious is Not Obvious to Me by Marcia Walker (Canada)
To Xreos (The Debt) by Nikolas Kyriacou (Cyprus) translated from the Greek by Lina Protopapa
Wherever Mister Jensen Went by Reyah Martin (United Kingdom)
Mafootoo by Brian S Heap (Jamaica)
Cash and Carry by Sharma Taylor (Jamaica)
Finger, Spinster, Serial Killer by Brandon Mc Ivor (Trinidad and Tobago)
The Art of Waving by Andrea E Macleod (Australia)
Attention by Catherine Chidgey (New Zealand)
A Breath, a Bunk, a Land, a Sky by Fiona Sussman (New Zealand)