Alert! The five regional winners of the 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize have been announced.
South African writer Faraaz Mahomed has been named the Africa Regional Winner for his short story “The Pigeon”.
Mahomed is a clinical psychologist and human rights researcher based in Johannesburg. “I am an unseasoned writer, who continues to struggle with the insecurities and anxieties of inexperience,” he says. “Winning the Commonwealth Prize for the African region is more than an accolade, it’s a prompting to continue down this path.”
2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize judge Helon Habila says: “The Africa region included stories on almost every conceivable theme, accentuating the endless complexity and beauty of the continent; a testament to the inexhaustible talent that abounds there. ‘The Pigeon’ is a carefully and patiently woven tale about love, lust, guilt, and escape. It illustrates just how, as humans, we will always come short of our ideals, and we must learn to live with that.”
Other South African writers on the shortlist were Andrew Salomon, Cat Hellisen and Mark Winkler. From Nigeria, Lausdeus Chiegboka, Enyeribe Ibegwam and Oyinkan Braithwaite were also shortlisted.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize aims to “brings stories from new and emerging voices, often from countries with little or no publishing infrastructure, to the attention of an international audience”. 26 stories by writers from 11 countries made up the shortlist. Five winners from the five different Commonwealth regions are selected, winning £2,500 (about R53,000) each. The overall winner will be announced at the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica on 5 June, and will be awarded £5,000 (about R106,000).
2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize regional winners
- Pacific Regional Winner: “Black Milk” by Tina Makereti (New Zealand)
- Asia Regional Winner: “Cow and Company” by Parashar Kulkarni (India)
- Africa Regional Winner: “The Pigeon” by Faraaz Mahomed (South Africa)
- Canada and Europe Regional Winner: “Eel” by Stefanie Seddon (UK)
- Caribbean Regional Winner: “Ethelbert and the Free Cheese” by Lance Dowrich (Trinidad and Tobago)
Chair of judges, South African novelist and playwright Gillian Slovo, said of the regional winners: “From Faraaz Mahomed’s ‘The Pigeon’ with its playful tone and unreliable narrator, Parashar Kulkarni’s ‘Cow and Company’, a witty satire that engagingly immerses the reader in its world, and ‘Eel’, a simply told and moving story of childhood by Stefanie Seddon to Lance Dowrich’s comedic ‘Ethelbert and the Free Cheese’ and Tina Makereti’s ‘Black Milk’, which impressed with a lyricism that takes the reader into another world while keeping us always on earth, these were all worthy winners and show how well the short story is flourishing in the Commonwealth.”
Commonwealth Writers has partnered with Granta, and on winning story will be published online on that platform every Wednesday until 1 June. At the same time, a conversation between the regional judge and the regional winner will be available as a podcast.
In the meantime, read a short excerpt from “The Pigeon”:
Each morning, for about four months now, I am woken by the same foul, fat pigeon. I am certain that he’s the same one, even though I have no means to prove it. In truth, I have no way to be sure he is a he either. It used to occur to me that maybe he had left something at the window, or inside and was hoping that being here to retrieve it would allow him some release. On most Saturdays, I leave the window open. It makes me feel kind, because I am easing his spirit into the next phase or something of that nature.
Excerpts from all 26 stories are available to read on the Commonwealth Writers website.
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