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The 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize: Regional Winners

2015-Commonwealth-Short-Story-Prize-Regional-Winners-CSSP2015The 2015 Prize attracted nearly 4000 entries – a record number. After an initial sift by a team of international readers, six acclaimed writers – Leila Aboulela, Fred D’Aguiar, Marina Endicott, Witi Ihimaera, Bina Shah and Romesh Gunesekera – chose a shortlist of twenty-two stories.

From this shortlist, they selected five regional winners – one each from Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, Caribbean and the Pacific. Chair Romesh Gunesekera describes the process:

“We had a strong shortlist of stories from around the world that excited the judges and provoked a lively, stimulating set of discussions. The judges were looking for well-crafted stories that were compelling and original. The standards were high. We wanted stories that would engage us and make us rethink our notions of form, language and what mattered. The winning stories did all of that and more. Thank you, writers.”

On 8 September, Jonathan Tel was declared overall winner of the 2015 Prize for his story ‘The Human Phonograph’.

Here are the regional winners – listen to each of them talk about their work, and follow the links to read all five winning stories.

Africa Regional Winner – ‘Light’ by Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria)

Lesley's winning story 'Light' is available to read on Granta now:

“When Enebeli Okwara sent his girl out in the world, he did not yet know what the world did to daughters. He did not know how quickly it would wick the dew off her, how she would be returned to him hollowed out, relieved of her better parts. Now, in the before of it, they are living in Port Harcourt in a bungalow in the old Ogbonda Layout…”

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Asia Regional Winner – ‘The Umbrella Man’ by Siddhartha Gigoo (India)

Siddhartha's winning story 'The Umbrella Man' is available to read on Scroll India now:

“He unfurled the umbrella, held it aloft over his head and stepped out of his ward again that evening, thinking that it would rain. Rain had evaded the place for several months. Only in the evenings were the inmates allowed to go out of their wards and stroll in the compound of the asylum…”

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Canada and Europe Regional Winner and Overall Winner – ‘The Human Phonograph’ by Jonathan Tel (UK)

Jonathan's winning story 'The Human Phonograph' is available to read on The Guardian website now:

And as a figure in reflective helmet and articulated suit half-walks half-floats over the unreal surface she make-believes he is her husband, and the moon itself could perfectly well be Qinghai province for all anybody can tell, and one of the other translators, one who specializes in English, says Mr. Armstrong is saying, ‘A small step for man, a large step for man’ and she shades her eyes with her hands so nobody can see her cry…”

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Caribbean Regional Winner – ‘The King of Settlement 4’ by Kevin Jared Hosein (Trinidad)

Kevin's winning story 'The King of Settlement 4' is available to read on The Caribbean Review of Books now:

“I’m gon start this one off by telling you that I was born and raise along a backroad that always seemed slightly more Trinidadian than the rest of the country. Settlement 4 is that old-timey, grassy, care-free type of Trinidad the illustrators adore. Open any Caribbean primary school readin book and you gon likely see it there…”

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Pacific Regional Winner – ‘Famished Eels’ by Mary Rokonadravu (Fiji)

Mary's winning story 'Famished Eels' is available to read on Granta now:

“After one hundred years, all I have is one daguerreotype photograph of her in bridal finery. A few stories told and retold in plantations, kitchens, hospitals, airport lounges. Scattered recollections argued over expensive telephone conversations across centuries and continents by half-asleep men and women in pyjamas. Arguments over mango pickle recipes on emails and private messages on Facebook. A copper cooking pot at the Fiji Museum. Immigration passes at the Fiji National Archives. It is 2011…”

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Author Biographies

Lesley Nneka Arimah

LesleyLesley Nneka Arimah grew up in Nigeria and the UK. She currently resides in the US in the state of Minnesota where she spends the winters in hiding, working on a novel and a collection of short stories.








Siddhartha Gigoo

Siddhartha-Gigoo-200x133Siddhartha Gigoo is the author of two books of fiction, The Garden of Solitude (2011) and A Fistful of Earth and Other Stories (2015). He has also written and directed two short films, The Last Day  and Goodbye, Mayfly. As a student, his two books of poems, Fall and Other Poems and Reflections were published by Writer’s Workshop, Kolkata, India.






Jonathan Tel

JTel-wilson-200x133Jonathan Tel is writing a fiction book set in contemporary China. It is composed of ten chapters, each of which may be read as an independent story, but which link together to form a novel. The winning story is extracted from this work. The opening chapter, ‘The Shoe King of Shanghai’ was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Award 2014. He is looking for a publisher for this book. He is also writing a book of poems about Berlin.





Kevin Jared Hosein

Kevin Hussein 200x133Kevin Jared Hosein is a poet, writer and science teacher in Trinidad and Tobago and a graduate of the University of the West Indies. He illustrated and published a book for younger audiences, Littletown Secrets, in 2013. His short stories have been featured in Caribbean anthologies such as Pepperpot and Jewels of the Caribbean.






Mary Rokonadravu

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMary Rokonadravu is Communications Manager at WWF-Pacific based in Suva, Fiji. She finds inspiration in the lives of ordinary people and communities, particularly untold stories of people in the frontlines of climate change and environmental degradation in the Pacific islands region. She believes in the power of culture and the arts, particularly storytelling, to inspire transformation in society. She loves cats.