The Commonwealth Short Story Prize Shortlist 2020

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize, which is awarded yearly to the best short fiction pieces of below 5000 words and is worth £15,000 in cash prizes, released its shortlist on the 20th of April, 2020. Twenty writers and twenty stories are in the run for the overall prize this year; five of the twenty writers are in the run for the prize in the Africa Region. Two of the five writers in the run for the Africa Region Prize are Nigerians, one Ghanian, one writer from the Gambia, and the last from South Africa. 

Here’s the shortlist (Africa, £2500):

  • “Rites Evasion Maneuvers” by Caleb Ozovehe Ajinomoh (Nigeria).
  • “The Dawn” by Aba Asibon (Ghana).
  • “When A Woman Renounces Motherhood” by Innocent Chizaram Ilo (Nigeria).
  • “Fatou vs. the Dictator” by ML Kejera (The Gambia).
  • “The Faraway Things” by Alboricah Tokologo Rathupetsane (South Africa).

Other writers on the shortlist running for the overall prize of £5,000 are:

  • “Ouroboros, Ouroboros” by Sharmini Aphrodite (Malaysia).
  • “Attention” by Catherine Chidgey (New Zealand).
  • “The Teeth on the Bus Go Round and Round” by Dinesh Devarajan (India).
  • “Mafootoo” by Brian S. Heap (Jamaica).
  • “The Shedding” by Nafisa A. Iqbal (Bangladesh).
  • “An Instruction Manual: How to Find Your Vagina” by Maham Javaid (Pakistan).
  • “Provenance” by Jason Jobin (Canada).
  • “‘Το χρέος’ (‘The Debt’)” by Nikolas  Kyriacou (Cyprus), translated from Greek into English by Lina Protopapa (Cyprus).
  • “The Art of Waving” by Andrea E. Macleod (Australia).
  • “Wherever Mr. Jensen Went” by Reyah Martin (United Kingdom).
  • “Finger, Spinster, Serial Killer” by Brandon Mc Ivor (Trinidad and Tobago).
  • “The Great Indian Tee and Snakes” by Kritika Pandey (India).
  • “A Breath, a Bunk, a Land, a Sky” by Fiona Sussman (New Zealand).
  • “Cash and Carry” by Sharma Taylor (Jamaica).
  • “The Eternally Obvious is Not Obvious to Me” by Marcia Walker (Canada).

The prize this year was judged by a panel of six writers and editors: Nii Ayikwei Parkes (the chair); Mohale Mashigo (Africa); William Phuan (Asia); Heather O’Neill (Canada and Europe); Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw (the Caribbean); and Nic Low (the Pacific). 

On the shortlisted writers, the chair, Nii Ayikwei Parkes writes: “Beyond their basic plots, the best stories are elevated by the language in which they are told. In this judging process, the fine language has also undoubtedly been that of my fellow judges, who add nuance, colour, fun and a profound knowledge of trends in their regions to discussions. The result of the time we’ve spent indulging in the submissions to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is a shortlist of 20 unique stories. These stories, drawn from all over the globe, are as harrowing as they are uplifting, funny while being tragic—and defiant in the face of politics, bigotry and injustice. But, crucially, at a time like this, with the world beset with myriad challenges and a devastating virus, the stories are grounded in faith, hope and the humanity we all share.”

Good luck to all the shortlisted writers, especially to the African writers; we’re rooting for you.