Saturday 26 September, 2020

T&T author wins Commonwealth Writers' regional prize for second time

Kevon Jared Hosein

Kevon Jared Hosein

Kevin Jared Hosein, an author from Trinidad and Tobago, has scooped up the Caribbean regional winner trophy in the world’s most global literary prize for the second time, having previously been awarded in 2015.

His winning story, Passage, sends a midlife crisis-ridden protagonist into the wilderness in search of a mystery woman – with unforeseen consequences for others, and for himself.

The announcement was made on Tuesday. 

Commenting on his win, Hosein said: "Trinidad and Tobago writes itself. It writes loudly and quietly at the same time. Loudly, because it likes to boast of its best and worst parts. Quietly, because it thinks nobody cares to listen. This win, along with the many voices year after year whom have shortlisted and won for this little twin-island nation, is reinforced proof that people out there are entertained by our stories, derive meaning and relevance from them, and are moved by them. It is proof that people care to listen.”

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. It is the only prize in the world where entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, English, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, and Tamil.

The international judging panel, chaired by the novelist and poet Sarah Hall, has chosen the five regional winners – tackling issues from abortion to transgender identity, from religion to mental illness – from a shortlist of 24, with 5182 stories submitted from 48 Commonwealth countries.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is run by Commonwealth Writers, which develops and connects writers across the world and tackles the challenges they face in different regions.

Commonwealth Writers is the cultural initiative of the Commonwealth Foundation, whose Director-General, Vijay Krishnarayan, said of this year’s winners: “ These remarkable stories are testament to the vitality and range of writing from around the Commonwealth, to the importance of a truly international prize: one that works across linguistic and cultural boundaries.”

 “Each of the winning regional stories speaks strongly for itself in extraordinary prose and speaks for and beyond its region, often challenging notions of identity, place and society. Individually, the stories exhibit marvellous imaginative and stylistic diversity; together,
they remind us that our deeper human concerns and conundrums are shared and that the short story form is uniquely adept at offering the reader a world in which she or he might feel a sense both of belonging and un-belonging, might question his or her understanding of the world," said Hall.

The prize is judged by an international panel of writers, representing each of the five regions of the Commonwealth. The 2018 judges are Damon Galgut (Africa), Sunila Galappatti (Asia), Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (Canada and Europe), Mark McWatt (Caribbean), and Paula Morris (Pacific).

The prize partners with the British literary magazine Granta, which will publish all regional winner stories online, starting today, featuring one story a week on a Wednesday.

Luke Neima, Granta’s Online Editor, said: “Granta magazine is delighted to be introducing the storytellers and writers who have been awarded the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize to our readers. This year ’s selection introduces exciting emerging talents from around the world, writers who bring to their readers a thrilling and essential glimpse of the tradition, culture and vibrancy of life across the Commonwealth. Here is a rich new seam of voices, ideas, and talent from around the world.”

The five regional winners are:
• The Nigerian-German writer Efua Traoré, who grew up in a little town in the south of Nigeria, wins in Africa with a first-person narrative that sees a 13-year-old boy wrestle with the question of what it means to find True Happiness.
• Jenny Bennet-Tuionetoa, a human rights advocate and LGBTQIA activist from Samoa, is being awarded in the Pacific region for Matalasi, a story that covers the lifetime of a young transgender man, set on the day of his agreed wedding – as a woman.
• In Passage, Kevin Jared Hosein, who also won the Caribbean regional prize in 2015, sends his midlife crisis-ridden protagonist into the wilderness in search for a mystery woman – with unforeseen consequences for others, and for himself.
• The British writer and former video game producer Lynda Clark is being awarded in Europe for Ghillie’s Mum – a surrealist take on a mother and son relationship that explores mental illness in a fresh and unusual way.
• In Asia, the regional prize goes to Sagnik Datta, a writer from Siliguri, India, for The Divine Pregnancy in a 12-year-old woman, which sees a small village confronted with the mother ’s decision not to bear the child of God.

The overall winner of the 2018 prize will be announced at a ceremony in Cyprus on July 25.

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