Onuzo, Ajaegbo, Nwosu shortlisted for 2013 Commonwealth Book, Short Story Prizes

Posted: April 17, 2013 in arts/culture

Three Nigerian contemporary writers out of a total of 21 writers named by the Commonwealth Foundation Tuesday in the shortlists for the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize, just as India topped the nominations with five writers.

However, only one Nigerian writer, Tobenna Nwosu for the story, No War is Worth Debating, made the 19-man shortlist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize also announced by the Commonwealth Foundation.

Ifeanyi Ajaegbo (Sarah House), E.E. Sule (Sterile Sky), Chibundu Onuzo (The Spider King’s Daughter), were named in the shortlist for the Commonwealth Book Prize which winner stand to receive £10,000, with regional winners receiving £2,500.

The winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize receives £5,000, with regional winners receiving £1,000.

Part of Commonwealth Writers, the prizes unearth, develop and promote the best new writing from across the Commonwealth, developing literary connections worldwide.

The Commonwealth Book Prize is awarded for the best first novel, and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the best piece of unpublished short fiction. Writers from around the world have been shortlisted in anticipation of being announced as overall winners at Hay Festival, on 31 May 2013.

Political, religious and social conflict runs through many of this year’s shortlisted entries, but there are also humorous stories, stories of hope, and stories full of imagination and power. The unmatched global reach of the prizes allows readers internationally to engage with a world of literature that might otherwise remain undiscovered, consistently bringing less-heard voices to the fore.

Encompassing a span of 54 countries, entries are judged within the five regions of Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific, each of which will produce a regional winner for the two prizes. These will be announced on 14 May 2013.

The prizes’ judging panels are made up of eminent members of the international literary community. Commenting on the shortlisted entries, Chair of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, BBC Special Correspondent Razia Iqbal, said, ‘People often assume short stories are easier to write because they’re, well, short! But it takes a particular skill to establish mood, character and tone in quick strokes, and tell a story which leaves a lasting impression. These stories open windows on worlds which seem familiar but, through fiction, which is tightly written, reflect those worlds, in richer and more surprising colours.’

Chair of the Commonwealth Book Prize, Godfrey Smith, said, ‘Our five judges did an admirable job of shortlisting  from a bountiful harvest of debut novels, based on originality, linguistic flair, depth, quality of writing and freshness of tone. A number of books boldly pushed the boundaries of form and explosively rebelled against the conventional structures of fiction-writing, inspiring lively and passionate debates among the judges.’

Full shortlists for the Commonwealth Book Prize include: Sarah House by Ifeanyi Ajaegbo; Disposable People, Ezekel Alan (Jamaica), self-published; Floundering, Romy Ash (Australia), Text Publishing; Running the Rift, Naomi Benaron (Canada), HarperCollins Canada; Mazin Grace, Dylan Coleman (Australia), University of Queensland Press; A Tiger in Eden, Chris Flynn (Australia), Text Publishing; The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Howard Fry, Rachel Joyce (United Kingdom), Transworld Publishers; The Headmaster’s Wager, Vincent Lam (Canada), Doubleday Canada.

Others are: Island of a Thousand Mirrors, Nayomi Munaweera (Sri Lanka), Perera-Hussein Publishing House; The Death of Bees, Lisa O’Donnell (United Kingdom), William Heinemann; The Spider King’s Daughter, Chibundu Onuzo (Nigeria), Faber and Faber; Em and the Big Hoom, Jerry Pinto (India), Aleph Book Company; The Wildings, Nilanjana Roy (India), Aleph Book Company; The Great Agony & Pure Laughter of the Gods, Jamala Safari (South Africa), Umuzi; The Last Thread, Michael Sala (Australia), Affirm; The Other Side of Light, Mishi Saran (India), HarperCollins India; God on Every Wind, Farhad Sorabjee (India), Parthian; Sterile Sky, E.E. Sule (Nigeria), Pearson Education; Narcopolis, Jeet Thayil (India), Faber and Faber; Beneath the Darkening Sky, Majok Tulba (Australia), Penguin Books Australia; and The Bellwether Revivals, Benjamin Wood (United Kingdom), Simon & Schuster UK.

For the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, the shortlist include: Not for Publication, Rachel Bush (New Zealand); A Killing in the Sun, Dilman Dila (Uganda); NORMAL, Susan Everett (United Kingdom); Chutney, Debz Hobs-Wyatt (United Kingdom); Fatima Saleh, Alexander Ikawah (Kenya); The New Customers, Julian Jackson (South Africa); Notes from the Ruins, Anushka Jasraj (India); A Good Friday, Barbara Jenkins (Trinidad and Tobago); Antonya’s Baby Shower on Camperdown Road, A.L. Major (Bahamas); Mango Summer, Janice Lynn (Bahamas).

Others are: Things With Faces, Zoë Meager (New Zealand); The Sarong-Man in the Old House, and an Incubus for a Rainy Night, Michael Mendis (Sri Lanka); The Whale House, Sharon Millar (Trinidad and Tobago); No War is Worth Debating, Tobenna Nwosu (Nigeria); Take me Home United Road, Sally-Ann Partridge (South Africa); Mortal Sins, Sinead Roarty (Australia); We Walked On Water, Eliza Robertson (Canada); Tug of War, Deborah Rogers  (New Zealand); and Raven, Tom Williams (Australia).

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