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Lesley Nneka Arimah Named the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize Africa Regional Winner

Alert! Lesley Nneka Arimah has been announced as the Africa Regional Winner of the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

South Africans Jayne Bauling and Fred Khumalo made the shortlist for the prize, which is open to unpublished work by writers from the 53 countries of the Commonwealth, but were pipped to the post by the Nigerian author.

On the judging panel, which reflects the five regions of the Commonwealth, is Leila Aboulela, (Africa), Bina Shah (Asia), Marina Endicott (Canada and Europe), Fred D’Aguiar (the Caribbean) and Witi Ihimaera (The Pacific). The chair of judges is Romesh Gunesekera.

“We had a strong shortlist of stories from around the world that excited the judges and provoked a lively, stimulating set of discussions,” Gunesekera says. “The judges were looking for well-crafted stories that were compelling and original.

“The standards were high. We wanted stories that would engage us and make us rethink our notions of form, language and what mattered. The winning stories did all of that and more. Thank you writers.”

2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize Regional Winners:

  • Africa: Lesley Nneka Arimah, “Light” (Nigeria)
  • Asia: Siddhartha Gigoo, “The Umbrella Man” (India)
  • Canada and Europe: Jonathan Tel, “The Human Phonograph” (United Kingdom)
  • Caribbean: Kevin Jared Hosein, “The King of Settlement 4″ (Trinidad and Tobago)
  • Pacific: Mary Rokonadravu, “Famished Eels” (Fiji)

African judging representative Aboulela says the shortlisted stories from the continent were wide in range, but that Arimah’s story will resonate with readers from all walks of life.

“The African stories on the shortlist range from a satire on gender tensions to a meditation on bereavement; from internecine warfare to a comedy about childhood punishment,” she says.

“‘Light’ is warm, beautiful and deeply felt. Fluid and delightful, its theme of parenting across continents will strike a chord with readers throughout the world.”

Arimah says the recognition that comes with winning an international award is gratifying.

“I was delighted to hear that I’d won the regional prize,” she says. “Writing sometimes feels like yelling into a void and this was the pleasant shock of having a voice shout back ‘I get what you’re doing and I like it!’ Especially with this particular story and it’s wry, tongue-in-cheekiness. It means a lot to me.”

Listen to Arimah chatting about her story:

Celebratory events will be held at local venues around the world, including a Chinese restaurant in London, a bookstore in New Delhi and a literary centre in Minneapolis, USA.

The overall winner will be announced in London on 8 September.

Image courtesy of Commonwealth Foundation


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