Trinidadian writer Deborah Matthews is on the shortlist of the 2023 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Matthews' Teef From Teef was selected from among a total of 6,642 entries.
Twenty-eight outstanding stories have been shortlisted by an international judging panel for the world's most global literature prize.The writers come from 19 countries across the Commonwealth, and the shortlisted entries tackle subjects from illness, human trafficking and decay, to relationships and hope – as well as family secrets, growing up gay in a hostile world, generation gaps, bittersweet friendships, and making one’s way in the world of work. They span genres from speculative and comic fiction to historical fiction and crime.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from any of the Commonwealth’s 56 member states. It is the most accessible and international of all writing competitions: in addition to English, entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, Creole, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish. Such linguistic diversity in a short story prize in part reflects the richness of the Commonwealth, not least its many and varied literary traditions. In 2023, 475 entries were submitted in languages other than English.
The stories on the 2023 shortlist were selected from 56 Commonwealth countries including, for the first time, Togo and Gabon – the very newest members of the Commonwealth. The shortlisted writers – ten men and 18 women – range in age from 20 to 74. Twenty-seven writers, a quarter of whom are still in their 20s, are new to the prize shortlist this year.
Chair of the judges, Pakistani writer and translator Bilal Tanweer said, "On behalf of the jury, I am thrilled to reveal the shortlist for the 2023 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. This year's shortlist is a concert of voices from across the Commonwealth, showcasing the richness of its writing traditions, histories, and perspectives. These stories brim with the energy and urgency of the present moment – read them to experience the beat and pulse of contemporary storytelling.
"These stories perform the essential function of the best fiction: they make us see what we couldn’t see, awaken our sympathies for people we didn’t know, and bring us closer to the world we already inhabit. What we see here are writers, who with their varied styles and strategies, stretch our sense of the real. These stories, like music, go clean through our gut and spine, filling us with sensations ranging from dysphoric anguish to euphoric laughter, and after reading each story, we wake up to the world, changed"’
Dr Anne T Gallagher AO, director-general of the Commonwealth Foundation, the intergovernmental organisation which administers the prize, commended all 6,642 citizens of the commonwealth who entered stories in 2023, offering special congratulations to the 28 writers who made the shortlist in a highly competitive year. Gallagher said, "The foundation is proud of the Short Story Prize: proud of what it reveals of the richness of Commonwealth culture; proud of its reach into all Commonwealth countries; and proud of the role that the prize plays in unearthing and nurturing emerging talent. Working so closely with civil society, we see, every day, the power of storytelling to challenge, to inspire, and to help us make sense of ourselves and the world around us."
Five judges join Tanweer on the 2023 judging panel, each representing the five regions of the Commonwealth. These are Rwandan-born writer, photographer and editor, Rémy Ngamije (Africa), Sri Lankan author and publisher Ameena Hussein (Asia), British-Canadian author Katrina Best (Canada and Europe), Saint Lucian poet and novelist Mac Donald Dixon (Caribbean), and New Zealand’s former Poet Laureate, Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh (Pacific).
The 2023 shortlisted stories will be published online, in the innovative online magazine of the Commonwealth Foundation, adda (addatories.org), which features new writing from around the globe. The judges will go on to choose a winner for each of the five regions. These regional winners will be announced on May 17 before being published online by the literary magazine Granta. The overall winner will be announced on June 27.
The 2023 shortlist in full:
Price Tags - Buke Abduba (Kenya)
Punching Lines - Josiah Mbote (Kenya)
Arboretum - HB Asari (Nigeria)
Mama Blue - Michael Boyd (South Africa)
The Undertaker's Apprentice - Hana Gammon (South Africa)
Falling from a Knife Tree - Matshediso Radebe (South Africa)
Deficiency Notice - Arman Chowdhury (Bangladesh)
A Groom Like Shahrukh - Vidhan Verma (India)
Relative Distance - Shih-Li Kow (Malaysia)
Khicheenk! - Usama Lali (Pakistan)
Oceans Away From My Homeland - Agnes Chew (Singapore)
Principles of Accounting - Rukshani Weerasooriya Wijemanne (Sri Lanka)
Canada and Europe
Lost Boys - Trevor Corkum (Canada)
So Long, Gregor - Mehdi M Kashani (Canada)
The Fisherwoman - Eva Koursoumba (Cyprus) translated from Greek by Lina Protopapa
Lech, Prince, and the Nice Things - Rue Baldry (UK)
Crossing Lake Abaya - Gail Davey (UK)
Because You Drowned - Jay McKenzie (UK)
The Ovelias at Benzie Hill Dump - Alexia Tolas (Bahamas)
Where The Winds Blow - Cosmata Lindie (Guyana)
Road Trip and Fall - Demoy Lindo (Jamaica)
Ocoee - Kwame McPherson (Jamaica)
Teef From Teef - Deborah Matthews (Trinidad and Tobago)
Sauce - Jean Flynn (Australia)
Catching Up - Janeen Samuel (Australia)
Sugartown - Emma Sloley (Australia)
Kilinochchi - Himali McInnes (New Zealand)
When this Island Disappears - Dennis Kikira (Papua New Guinea)
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