Ingrid Persaud from Trinidad and Tobago has won 2017's Commonwealth Writers' Short Story Prize for "Sweet Sop" - a story exploring harrowing themes of fractured families, death and terminal illness, through the medium of chocolate.
In total the prize received a record 6,000 entries. Designed to find the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English, its aim is to seek out talented writers and bring stories from new and emerging voices, often from countries with little or no publishing infrastructure, to the attention of an international audience.
The overall winning story was chosen from the five regional winning stories of this year's prize. Five winners had been selected by an international judging panel, one for each Commonwealth region - Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, the Caribbean and Pacific - from which an ultimate winner was selected.
Persaud was presented with the award today (30th June) at The Arts House, which was Singapore’s first Parliament House, by writer Catherine Lim.
Persaud's story "Sweet Sop" is said to have been influenced and shaped by recent family tragedies and the true story of an assassination engineered by regularly feeding the victim poisoned chocolate.
Chair of the judging panel, novelist Kamila Shamsie, praised its "originality, the strength of its characterisation, the control of voice, and its humour and emotional punch". She added: "It loses none of its effectiveness on a second or third or fourth re-reading, always the mark of a rich and layered story.”
Persaud was born in Trinidad and came to fiction later in life having previously worked as a legal academic, a trained visual artist and a project manager. She published her debut If I Never Went Home (Blue China Press) in 2014 and is currently working on her second. She now lives between Barbados and London.
She commented: "I am humbled to be this year's winner. Thanks to the Commonwealth Foundation for promoting and encouraging contemporary writing. ‘Sweet Sop’ is an intimate story that attempts to ask universal questions. I hope you enjoy it."
Also present at the ceremony today were the other four regional winners: Akwaeke Emezi for "Who is Like God", Anushka Jasraj for "Drawing Lessons", Tracy Fells for "The Naming of Moths", and Nat Newman for "The Death of Margaret Roe".
Joining Shamsie on the judging panel were Zukiswa Wanner (Africa), Mahesh Rao (Asia), Jacqueline Baker (Canada and Europe), Jacob Ross (Caribbean) and Vilsoni Hereniko (Pacific).
Janet Steel, programme manager of Commonwealth Writers, said: “The Prize is at the heart of all the work we do at Commonwealth Writers. It’s a chance for new voices to shine from around the commonwealth and be recognised on a global platform. Some of the writers may have come up through our craft development initiatives, some may have discovered a love for writing after years in an alternative career, others may be professional writers, but what they all have in common is a passion and a commitment to writing stories that are moving, enlightening and make people sit up and listen.
“Ingrid Persaud’s winning story, ‘Sweet Sop’, has a fresh and unique voice that immerses the reader into the complexities of father and son relationships. A fine balance between humour, poignancy and sticky negotiations, we are delighted that this talented writer has received the recognition she so rightly deserves for this, her first short story.”
"Sweet Sop" can be read on Granta online through Commonwealth Writers’ partnership with Granta magazine.
The 2017 Prize is supported by The Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature and the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize Awards are supported by The Arts House and the Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay.