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Alexia Tolas shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Twenty-one outstanding short stories have been selected by an international judging panel to be in the running for the world’s most global literature prize. The writers – 15 women and six men – come from 16 countries, including, for the first time, Tanzania, Zambia, Malaysia, Cyprus and Barbados.

The youngest is 20, the oldest 80.

Bahamian Alexia Tolas made the shortlist for the story “Granma’s Porch”.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. It is the only prize in the world where entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, English, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil and Turkish.

Such linguistic diversity in a short story prize in part represents the richness of the many and varied literary traditions of the Commonwealth.

The shortlist was chosen from 5,081 entries from 50 Commonwealth countries, and includes two translations into English, one from Greek and one from Malay.

Chair of the Judges, British novelist, playwright and essayist Caryl Phillips said: “The vitality and importance of the short story form is abundantly clear in this impressive shortlist of stories from around the world.

“These authors have dared to imagine into the lives of an amazingly wide range of characters and their stories explore situations that are both regional and universal.

“Almost as impressive as the number of entrants and the quality of the shortlist, is the amount of work that the panel of judges have invested in this process. They have read carefully, debated with great sensitivity and been mindful of cultural traditions as they have collectively reached their decision.

“Compared to many literary prizes, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is still young. However, with each passing year the prize gains importance within the literary world. It offers a unique opportunity to read and think across borders, and to connect imaginations from around the globe.

“It has been a great honor to be a part of the judging of the 2019 prize.”

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is run by Commonwealth Writers, the cultural initiative of the Commonwealth Foundation. Commonwealth Writers develops and connects writers across the world and helps address the challenges they face in different regions.

The prize is judged by an international panel of writers, representing each of the five regions of the Commonwealth.

The 2019 judges are: Ugandan novelist and short story writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, overall winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Africa); Pakistani writer and journalist Mohammed Hanif, whose novel “A Case of Exploding Mangoes” was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize (Asia); the award-winning author of speculative fiction, Karen Lord, from Barbados (Caribbean); the British short story writer Chris Power, author of the Rathbones Folio Prize-longlisted collection “Mothers” (Europe and Canada); and the poet, playwright, fiction writer and musician Courtney Sina Meredith, a New Zealander of Samoan, Mangaian and Irish descent (Pacific).

The 2019 shortlists in full:

Africa

“The Bride”, Adorah Nworah (Nigeria)

“Extinction”, Alex Latimer (South Africa)

“The Blessing of Kali”, Irene Muchemi-Ndiritu (Kenya)

“How to Marry an African President”, Erica Sugo Anyadike (Tanzania)

“Madam’s Sister”, Mbozi Haimbe (Zambia)

Asia

“Miss Coelho, English Teacher”, Kiran Doshi (India)

“Pengap”, Lokman Hakim (Malaysia), translated by Adriana Nordin Manan (Malaysia)

“My Mother Pattu”, Saras Manickam (Malaysia)

Canada and Europe

“Resurrection”, Hilary Dean (Canada)

“Death Customs”, Constantia Soteriou (Cyprus), translated by Lina Protopapa (Cyprus)

“Deserted”, Erato Ioannou (Cyprus)

“Amid the Winds and Snow”, Tyler Keevil (Canada)

“The Night of Hungry Ghosts”, Sarah Evans (UK)

“Love-life”, Nuzha Nuseibeh (UK)

Caribbean

“Granma’s Porch”, Alexia Tolas (Bahamas)

“A Hurricane & the Price of Fish”, Shakirah Bourne (Barbados)

“The Ol’ Higue on Market Street”, Kevin Garbaran (Guyana)

“Oats”, Rashad Hosein (Trinidad and Tobago)

Pacific

“Bluey”, Maria Samuela (New Zealand)

“Screaming”, Harley Hern (New Zealand)

“Nightfall”, Emma Ashmere (Australia)

For author biographies and short story summaries, please visit, from 10th April 2019: www.commonwealthwriters.org/2019-cssp-shortlist.

All shortlisted stories will be published on the innovative online magazine of Commonwealth Writers, adda, which serves as a gathering place for stories and a space where writers and readers can talk across divides. The judges will then go on to choose a winner for each of the five regions.

These will be announced Thursday, May 9, 2019, before being published online by the literary magazine Granta. The overall winner will be announced in Québec City on July 9, 2019.

Last year, Kevin Jared Hosein, from Trinidad and Tobago, won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for his story “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”. In 2017, Ingrid Persaud, also from Trinidad and Tobago, won for “The Sweet Sop”. The story was written specifically for the prize – and went on to win the 13th BBC National Short Story Award last year.

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