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Asari, Abduba, Baldry, others make 2023 Commonwealth Short Story shortlist

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
09 April 2023   |   3:47 am
Nigerian-born H.B Asari and 27 other writers have made the shortlist for 2023 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Nigerian-born H.B Asari and 27 other writers have made the shortlist for 2023 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
The 28 shortlisted writers come from 19 countries across the Commonwealth. The international judging panel selected them from over 6,642 writers who submitted their stories.

Arboretum is Asari’s work that made the shortlist. It is a short story that interrogates grief both collective and personal, and asks, ‘How do we pick ourselves up and keep going in the face of overwhelming tragedy.’

Arboretum will be competing for the regional prize against Price Tags by Buke Abduba from Kenya, Mama Blue by Michael Boyd, South Africa and Falling from a knife tree, Matshediso Radebe also from South Africa.

Asari is a student at the University of Lagos. Her short fiction has been published in The Voyage Journal.

The shortlist is again filled with emerging talent as well as more experienced writers. All but one of the writers are new to the prize shortlist and a quarter are still in their 20s.

These stories explore diverse and fascinating themes, like family secrets, growing up gay in hostile world, bittersweet friendships and making one’s way in the world of work. They embody the passion for storytelling that thrives in the Commonwealth.

Chair of the Judges, Pakistani writer and translator, Bilal Tanweer, while commending the shortlisted stories, said: “These stories brim with the energy and urgency of the present moment— read them to experience the beat and pulse of contemporary storytelling.”

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.”

The 2024 prize will open for submissions on September 1, 2023. The Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. Regional winners each receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £5,000.

The 2023 regional winners will be announced on May 17 and the overall winner in an online ceremony on June 27, 2023.

Other shortlisted writers are Price Tags by Buke Abduba from Kenya; Lech, Prince, and the Nice Things, by Rue Baldry from the United Kingdom; Mama Blue by Michael Boyd, South Africa; Oceans Away From My Homeland, Agnes Chew (Singapore); Deficiency Notice, Arman Chowdhury (Bangladesh); Lost Boys, Trevor Corkum (Canada); Crossing Lake Abaya, Gail Davey (United Kingdom) and Sauce by Jean Flynn, Australia.

Others include, The Undertaker’s Apprentice, Hana Gammon, South Africa; So Long, Gregor, Mehdi M. Kashani (Canada); When this island disappears, Dennis Kikira

(Papua New Guinea); Η Ψαρού (The Fisherwoman), Eva Koursoumba,
(Cyprus); Relative Distance by Shih-Li Kow (Malaysia); Khicheenk! by Usama Lali from Pakistan; Where the Winds Blow, Cosmata A. Lindie (Guyana); Road Trip and Fall, Demoy Lindo (Jamaica) and Teef From Teef, Deborah Matthews from Trinidad and Tobago.

Also in the race are Punching Lines by Josiah Mbote from Kenya; Kilinochchi, Himali McInnes (New Zealand); Because You Drowned, Jay McKenzie, United Kingdom; Ocoee, Kwame McPherson, Jamaica; Falling from a knife tree, Matshediso Radebe (South Africa), Catching Up, Janeen Samuel, Australia; Sugartown, Emma Sloley (Australia); The Ovelias at Benzie Hill Dump, Alexia Tolas (Bahamas); A Groom Like Shahrukh, Vidhan Verma (India) and Principles of Accounting, Rukshani Weerasooriya Wijemanne from Sri Lanka.