Header image, Africa region shortlist, from top left: Ntsika Kota, Franklyn Usouwa, Dera Duru, Charlie Muhumuza and Mubanga Kalimamukwento
The shortlist for the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, known as the world’s ‘most global literature prize’, has been announced.
This year’s Africa region shortlist features writers from Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and, for the first time, Eswatini.
Nigerian writer Franklyn Usouwa appears on the shortlist for the second time, joined by Ntsika Kota (Eswatini), Dera Duru (Nigeria), Charlie Muhumuza (Uganda) and Mubanga Kalimamukwento (Zambia).
Dual Kenyan–British citizen Farah Ahamed also makes the shortlist, but is included in the Canada/Europe region, as she lives in the United Kingdom.
This year’s judges hailed the ‘memorable and urgent stories that captured the concerns of their respective communities’, adding that they reflected ‘a complex and afflicted planet’.
The stories on the shortlist are described as ‘ambitious’, covering a ‘wide-ranging variety of styles, storytelling traditions and themes’, including subjects from bereavement to climate change, and spanning genres from speculative and literary fiction to romance and crime.
The writers of the twenty-six shortlisted stories come from twenty countries across the Commonwealth including, for the first time, Papua New Guinea, Eswatini, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually to ‘the best piece of unpublished short fiction’ from any of the Commonwealth’s fifty-four member states. The prize focuses on linguistic diversity: in addition to English, entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, Creole, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil and Turkish. In 2022, 408 entries were in languages other than English.
The stories on the 2022 shortlist were selected from over 6,700 entries from fifty-two countries, and the shortlisted writers range in age from twenty-three to seventy-five.
The chair of judges, British–Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar said the writers:
‘displayed an astute sense of the many forms of the story and its many long traditions on a continuum, from oral to scribal, from performance to contemplation […] the result is a shortlist of stories that is aware of history, while never sacrificing story. These stories are as diverse as the world that they are drawn from and care about: they reflect a complex and afflicted planet; they answer the call of today’s multiple societal tensions by acts of reading that transform how the reader views that world.’
2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize shortlist
- ‘and the earth drank deep’ by Ntsika Kota (Eswatini)
- ‘Lifestyle Guide for The Discerning Witch’ by Franklyn Usouwa (Nigeria)
- ‘Something Happened Here’ by Dera Duru (Nigeria)
- ‘How to Operate the New Eco-Protect Five-in-One Climate Control Apparatus’ by Charlie Muhumuza (Uganda)
- ‘Thandiwe’ by Mubanga Kalimamukwento (Zambia)
- ‘A fast-growing refugee problem’ by Sagnik Datta (India)
- ‘Accidents are Prohibited’ by Gitanjali Joshua (India)
- ‘Fault Lines’ by Pritika Rao (India)
- ‘The Kite’ by Sophia Khan (Pakistan)
- ‘The Last Diver on Earth’ by Sofia Mariah Ma (Singapore)
Canada and Europe
- ‘The Stone Bench’ by David McIlwraith (Canada)
- ‘Losing Count’ by Alexandra Manglis (Cyprus)
- ‘A Landscape Memoir’ by Jonathan Pizarro (Gibraltar)
- ‘A Hat for Lemer’ by Cecil Browne (United Kingdom/St Vincent and the Grenadines)
- ‘Hot Chutney Mango Sauce’ by Farah Ahamed (United Kingdom/Kenya)
- ‘Omolara’ by JS Gomes (United Kingdom/Trinidad and Tobago)
- ‘The Scars and the Stars’ by PR Woods (United Kingdom)
- ‘What Men Live By’ by Shagufta Sharmeen Tania, translated from Bangla by the author (United Kingdom/Bangladesh)
- ‘No Man’s Land’ by Alexia Tolas (The Bahamas)
- ‘Bridge over the Yallahs River’ by Diana McCaulay (Jamaica)
- ‘Have Mercy’ by Sharma Taylor (Jamaica)
- ‘Slake’ by Sarah Walker (Australia)
- ‘The No Sex Thing’ by Eleanor Kirk (Australia)
- ‘The Nightwatch’ by Mary Rokonadravu (Fiji)
- ‘Speaking in tongues’ by Shelley Burne-Field (New Zealand)
- ‘Wonem Samting Kamap Long Mama?’ (‘What Happened to Ma?’) by Baka Bina, translated from Tok Pisin to English by the author (Papua New Guinea)
The 2022 judging panel is drawn from the five regions of the Commonwealth, and includes D’Aguiar, Rwandan publisher Louise Umutoni-Bower (Africa), Indian short story writer and novelist Jahnavi Barua (Asia), Cypriot writer and academic Stephanos Stephanides (Canada and Europe), Trinidadian novelist and former winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize Kevin Jared Hosein (Caribbean), and Australian Wiradjuri writer, poet and academic Jeanine Leane (Pacific).
The 2022 shortlisted stories will be published online in the magazine of the Commonwealth Foundation, adda. The five regional winners will be announced on Monday 23 May 2022, before being published online by the literary magazine Granta. The overall winner will be announced in June. Regional winners receive £2,500 (about R50,000) and the overall winner receives £5,000.
Last year’s winner of the Africa Region was Rwandan-born Namibian author Rémy Ngamije, while the overall winner was Sri Lankan author Kanya D’Almeida.