Twenty-five stories from 14 countries have made the shortlist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, in a "record-breaking year" for submissions.
The shortlisted stories were selected from a total of 6,423 entries from 50 Commonwealth countries, a 25% rise in entries compared to the previous year. This year's list sees stories exploring concerns with sexual identity, gender relations, and animal rights side by side with neo-colonialism, racial exploitation and themes of love and death. The shortlist also features entries from Lesotho and Namibia for the first time.
Awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from any of the Commonwealth’s 54 member states, the prize awards £2,500 to regional winners, and the overall winner receives £5,000. Entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, English and Turkish.
The 2021 judging panel is chaired by South African writer Zoë Wicomb. The other panellists are Nigerian writer A Igoni Barrett, Bangladeshi writer, translator and editor Khademul Islam, British poet and fiction writer Keith Jarrett, Jamaican environmental activist, award-winning writer and 2012 Caribbean regional winner Diana McCaulay, and award-winning author and 2016 Pacific regional winner Tina Makereti, from New Zealand.
Wicomb said: "Announcements about the death of the short story may be legion, but the 2021 shortlist loudly asserts that the form is in fine fettle. It also shows that writers continue to push at the very parameters of the short story. Many have tackled difficult subjects and found fresh means of representing these with courage and sensitivity."
She added: "The great number of excellent submissions and the equivocal nature of aesthetic taste made for protracted discussions. It has been a privilege to participate in vigorous argument and thoughtful horse-trading as members of the judging panel generously conceded and negotiated priorities."
Dr Anne T Gallagher, director-general of the Commonwealth Foundation, the intergovernmental organisation which administers the prize, said: "A record number of entries were received this year for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize: a testimony to its enduring popularity and perhaps also to a deep creativity borne of isolation and uncertainty. The authors on this shortlist are to be celebrated for their mastery of the form. It is an honour for the foundation to bring their work to wide public attention. And to all those who entered: we thank you for the timely reminder of the power of storytelling, not least its ability to comfort, inspire and heal."
The 2021 shortlist in full:
"Tetra Hydro Cannabinol" by Moso Sematlane (Lesotho)
"Granddaughter of The Octopus" by Rémy Ngamije (Namibia)
"An Analysis of a Fragile Affair" by Ola W. Halim (Nigeria)
"Ogbuefi" by Vincent Anioke (Nigeria)
"A for Abortion" by Franklyn Usouwa (Nigeria)
"The Current Climate" by Aravind Jayan (India)
"It Ends with a Kiss" by Riddhi Dastidar (India)
"Weeds" by Ling Low (Malaysia)
"Submission" by Nur Khan (Pakistan)
"I Cleaned The-" by Kanya D’Almeida (Sri Lanka)
Canada and Europe
"Starry Night" by Cara Marks (Canada)
"Class Struggle" by Ian Stewart (Canada)
"Mass Effect" by Joshua Wales (Canada)
"some words, ending in a sentence" by phill doran (UK)
"Turnstones" by Carol Farrelly (UK)
"Tourism is Our Business" by Heather Barker (Barbados)
"Genuine Human Hair" by Sharma Taylor (Jamaica)
"The Disappearance of Mumma Dell" by Roland Watson-Grant (Jamaica)
"Hunger" by Andre Bagoo (Trinidad and Tobago)
"English at the End of Time" by Rashad Hosein (Trinidad and Tobago)
"The Woman; or Euryale" by A N King (Australia)
"Rabbit" by Samantha Lane Murphy (Australia)
"Downpour" by S J Finn (Australia)
"Fertile Soil’ by Katerina Gibson (Australia)
"Carved" by Tim Saunders (New Zealand)
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