Constantia Soteriou was announced as the overall winner of the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her story ‘Death Customs’ in July 2019. Constantia’s story was the first translated entry to win the Prize, and was translated from Greek into English by Lina Protopapa. The award was presented by author and member of this year’s judging panel Karen Lord and writer Erika Soucy at the at the Maison de la litterature, Quebec City, Canada.
The 2019 Prize attracted over 5000 entries from 50 countries. The global judging panel, representing each of the five regions of the Commonwealth – Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Africa), Mohammed Hanif (Asia), Chris Power (Canada and Europe), Karen Lord (Caribbean), Courtney Sina Meredith (Pacific) and this year’s Chair Caryl Phillips, selected Cypriot writer Constantia Soteriou as the overall winner of the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
Overall winner Constantia Soteriou (centre) with Karen Lord and Erika Soucy. Photo credit: Helene Bouffard
"I feel honoured and happy to win this amazing prize; it feels like a reward for all the hard work I have been doing over the last eight years, writing about the perspectives of women on the political and historical events of Cyprus. This prize is a recognition for giving voice to those who did not have the chance to be heard before; those who were left behind to pick up the mess of the war. I grew up seeing the faces of the mothers and the wives of the missing people; those were the real victims of the war. Women should not be victims of any war. Women are the continuation of life. I wrote this story to salute their strength"
Overall winner Constantia Soteriou (left) with translator of the winning story, Lina Protopapa. Photo credit: Helene Bouffard
" "Death Customs" is a remarkable short story that manages to be both personal – following, as it does, the painful narrative of a woman who has lost her son – and deeply political, in that it charts the division of a land as it topples into civil war. We are encouraged to view the descent into bloodshed and mayhem as a domestic squabble between two brothers who can only be reconciled in death. The voices employed are beautifully resonant, and the story shifts gears, and ranges across time, with eloquence. 'Death Customs' is poetically intense and complex in form and subject-matter, yet the story remains admirably lucid and moving, and deservedly wins the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize."
Caryl Phillips, Chair of Judges
‘Death Customs’ 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.
Constantia Soteriou was born in Nicosia in 1975. Her first novel Aishe Goes on Vacation (Patakis, 2015) received the Athens Prize for Literature award. Her second book Voices Made of Soil (Patakis, 2017) was included on the shortlist for the Cyprus Literature Awards. She has written plays for independent stages and for the Cyprus Theatre Organization.
Lina Protopapa, translator of this year’s overall winning story from Greek into English, lives in Nicosia, Cyprus, where she works as a translator and cultural critic.
This year’s award ceremony in Quebec, Canada was made possible through the support of Maison de la litterature, Ville de Quebec, Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec and L’institut Canadien de Quebec. We would also like to thank Kawahiatonhk!, whose spectacular literary performance closed the 2019 Prize ceremony. We would like to thank all of our partners and all those involved in this year’s Prize, and Granta, who publish the regional winning stories each year.
Please view our galleries below of the 2019 Award Ceremony at Maison de la litterature, Quebec, on 9 July 2019.
The 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize ceremony closed with a spectacular literary performance by Kwahiatonhk! Please view our gallery of the performance below. We were honoured to be joined by Kwahiatonhk!, a Quebec-based organisation whose mission is the promotion and dissemination of Aboriginal literature and books, as well as the development of First Nations literary infrastructure.