2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize Regional Winners

Posted on 09/05/2019
By Commonwealth Foundation

2019’s international judging panel selected five regional winners from 5,081 entries, and a shortlist of 21 stories, for the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Find 2019’s regional winners and links to their stories on Granta below:


‘Madam’s Sister’

Mbozi Haimbe


‘My Mother Pattu’

Saras Manickam


‘Death Customs’

Constantia Soteriou


‘Granma’s Porch’

Alexia Tolas
(The Bahamas)



Harley Hern
(New Zealand)

Caryl Phillips, Chair of the Judges, said: “The regional winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize explore a remarkably diverse range of subject-matter, including stories about war, love, abuse and neglect. What unites the stories is a common thread of narrative excellence and dramatic intensity. The voices of a truly global cast of characters enable us to engage with, and recognise, universal emotions of pain and loss.”

The panel of judges comprises writers who represent each of the five regions of the Commonwealth. The 2019 judges are Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Africa), Mohammed Hanif (Asia), Chris Power (Canada and Europe), Karen Lord (Caribbean) and Courtney Sina Meredith (Pacific).

The five winning stories will be published in partnership with Granta in the run up to the overall Prize announcement in Québec City, Canada, on 9 July.

Luke NeimaGranta’s Digital Director and Online Editor, said: “This year’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize winning stories showcase the short story in a range of guises, innovations of form that stretch but never exhaust the potential of the short story to address the regional and universal questions this gifted crop of authors seeks to address. These outstanding stories capture the breadth of talent writing today across the Commonwealth.”

Read on to hear more from the winners.

Contact Commonwealth Writers: writers@commonwealth.int
Press contact, Danel Kramb, FMcM: danielk@fmcm.co.uk


‘Madam’s Sister’, Mbozi Haimbe (Zambia)

The arrival of madam’s sister from London causes upheaval within the household, but has an unexpected bonus for the guard, Cephas.

Read Mbozi’s regional winning story on Granta now.

"I am absolutely thrilled to have been selected as the regional winner, and feel privileged to contribute to Africa's literary landscape. Although a social worker by profession, I have always considered myself a writer. Winning the regional prize validates my aspiration. I thank the judges, and give acknowledgement to Zambia, which remains deeply influential to my writing."

Mbozi Haimbe was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia. She completed an MSt in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge in 2018, and is currently working on a collection of African inspired short stories. Mbozi lives in Norfolk with her family.




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‘My Mother Pattu’, Saras Manickam (Malaysia)

‘My Mother Pattu’ explores a mother’s violent jealousy and envy towards her daughter who finds no one can protect her from the abuse except herself.

Read Saras’ regional winning story on Granta now.

"I’m delighted, honoured and at the same time, petrified as darn it - the bar for my stories has now been raised higher among friends, teachers and the few readers. It is also very humbling that this story with its different voices set in a time long ago in Malaysia has found relevance and connectivity."

Saras Manickam is a freelance writer, language and Creative Writing teacher whose short stories have been published in Malaysian anthologies. She won the DK Dutt Memorial Award for Literary Excellence in 2017, and hopes to bring out a collection of short stories by the end of 2019.




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C A N A D A   A N D   E U R O P E

‘Death Customs’, Constantia Soteriou (Cyprus)

Translated by Lina Protopapa (Cyprus)

This is a story about the women of Cyprus, mothers or wives who were left to believe that their beloved persons were missing after the 1974 war, while the state had clear evidence about their death. It is a story of death customs, memories, bitterness and justice.

Read Constantia’s regional winning story on Granta now.

"I feel so honoured and happy to be among the regional winners of this year’s Commonwealth Short Story competition! This prize can strengthen not only my own voice as a writer but also the voice of the strong and powerful women I am writing about. Worlds and stories can heal and comfort the souls of those who suffer. This is why we write; this is why we tell our stories. Thank you Commonwealth for making me be heard."

Constantia Soteriou was born in Nicosia in 1975. Her first novel Aishe Goes on Vacation (Patakis, 2015) received the Athens Prize for Literature. Her second book Voices Made of Soil (Patakis, 2017) was included in the short list for the Cyprus Literature Awards. She has written plays for independent stages and the Cyprus Theatre Organization.

Lina Protopapa lives in Nicosia, Cyprus, where she works as a translator and cultural critic.





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‘Granma’s Porch’, Alexia Tolas (The Bahamas)

Abandoned by her father on her grandmother’s porch, Helena fumbles along the delicate border between adolescence and adulthood, guided by the past traumas of her friends and family and her troubled first love.

Read Alexia’s regional winning story on Granta now.

"Winning the regional prize for the Caribbean means everything to me. It means that I made the right choice. After my first semester in college, I had to make a difficult choice between doing what was expected of me and what I wanted. It seemed to be a selfish decision. I come from a struggling family and a struggling island, so as a girl with potential, I was expected to prepare myself for a lucrative career in the traditional professions: law, medicine, architecture. However, I chose to write. I got a lot of criticism for that choice. Many people asked me what I could do with a Literature degree: write children’s books; teach? I could, and there is nothing wrong with either. I make my living using my degree, and I am happy, but I still felt as if the true purpose behind my decision had not been realized. It has now."

Alexia Tolas was born and raised in The Bahamas. Her writing explores the intricacies of small-island life, particularly from the female perspective. She draws heavily on local folktales and mythologies in order to convey realities silenced by tradition and trauma. She is a graduate of the former College of The Bahamas and currently teaches Literature.



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‘Screaming’, Harley Hern (New Zealand)

A visit to a New Zealand rest home and a kapa haka performance force two friends to confront deceit, identity and endings.

Read Harley’s regional winning story on Granta now.

"Winning the regional prize is a truly unexpected honour, both humbling and empowering. My small country has a giant short fiction tradition, and an increasingly diverse collection of voices. I’m thrilled the judges feel my own is good enough to add to our narrative and to that of the greater Commonwealth community. But I am also astounded. This was the only short story I wrote last year. I can’t stop screaming. Thank you, thank you Commonwealth Writers!"

Harley Hern is a writer, artist and editor whose fiction, essays and reviews have appeared in various anthologies and journals. She has a Master of Creative Writing (Auckland University), is administrator for the Academy of NZ Literature (Te Whare Mātātui Aotearoa), senior editor of Geometry journal and for two years was administrator for NZ National Poetry Day. She lives on a rural block where she chainsaws firewood, fixes fences, paints bright art and trains horses.


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