Kevin Jared Hosein Named Global Winner of Commonwealth Short Story Prize

In News by Porter Anderson

At an outdoor ceremony in Cyprus, the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize was awarded to Kevin Jared Hosein, a writer from Trinidad and Tobago.

Kevin Jared Hosein, winner of the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, with novelist Sarah Hall, the jury chair, at the awards ceremony on Cyprus. Image: Leo Kiss, Commonwealth Foundation

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘A Truly Crafted Piece of Fiction’
The 2015 Caribbean regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, Kevin Jared Hosein has been named the global prize winner for 2018 at a ceremony on Cyprus on Wednesday evening (July 25).

Hosein, once more the regional winner, is from Trinidad and Tobago, and his short story “Passage” stands beside three books he’s also published: The Beast of Kukuyo (Burt Award for Caribbean Literature); The Repenters (OCM Bocas Prize for Fiction shortlist); and Littletown Secrets.

He has twice been shortlisted for the Small Axe Prize for Prose, and his work has been featured in numerous publications, including LightspeedAdda, and most recently, We Mark Your Memory: Writing from the Descendants of Indenture.

At tonight’s event at Nicosia’s Centre for Visual Arts and Research, Sarah Hall, the poet and novelist who has chaired this year’s jury, was quoted, saying, “Our winning story, Passage, was immediately and uniformly admired by the judges.

“It is an uncanny bar story, about a man who hears a strange tale, only to become part of the tale’s re-lived strangeness. It balances between formal language and demotic, ideas of civility and ferality, is tightly woven and suspenseful, beautifully and eerily atmospheric, and finally surprising.

“It is, in essence, all a reader could want from the short story form; a truly crafted piece of fiction that transports the reader into another world, upends expectations, and questions the nature of narratives and narrative consequence.”

And Hosein, learning of his award, told the open-air ceremony, “I wasn’t expecting it. First to be among this eclectic quintet of winning stories, all with central resonating themes–happiness, connection, isolation, freedom, repression, acceptance.

“Then to be chosen from that, I feel incredibly honored that this Trinidadian tale has travelled so far. I hope others in my region are inspired by this accomplishment.”

At the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2018 award ceremony on Cyprus. Image: Leo Kiss, Commonwealth Foundation

Seventh Year for the Prize Program

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is designed to recognize unpublished short fiction between 2,000 and 5,000 words in length, from the 53 member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, most of them former territories, of course, of the British Empire. Each year, a shortlist of five nominees for the overall prize is announced, each drawn from one of five reagions.

The organizers of the award program are the Commonwealth Foundation and Commonwealth Writers.

Regional winners receive £2,500 (US$3,295) and the overall winner receives £5,000 (US$6,591). Short stories translated into English from other languages are also eligible, and submissions are accepted in in Bengali, Chinese, English, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, and Tamil.

This year, Hall has been joined on the jury by:

  • Damon Galgut, for Africa—his In a Strange Room was on the 2010 Man Booker Prize for Fiction shortlist
  • Sunila Galappatti, for Asia
  • Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, for Canada and Europe
  • Mark McWattCaribbean, for the Caribbean
  • Paula Morris, for the Pacific
Regional Winners Shortlist

Clockwise from upper left, the 2018 regional winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize are Effua Traoré, Sagnik Datta, Kevin Jared, Lynda Clark, and Jenny Bennet-Tuioneto. Images provided by CW Short Story Prize

The shortlist of regional winners from which Hosein has been chosen as the global winner comprises these works:

  • Africa: A Nigerian-German writer, Efua Traoré, wins with a first-person narrative  for True Happiness, about a 13-year-old boy who works to understand the actual nature of contentment. In response to the news of her win, Traoré is quoted, saying, “This prize gives me the humbling feeling of being part of something great.”
  • Pacific: Jenny Bennet-Tuionetoa, a human rights advocate and LGBTQIA activist from Samoa, is being awarded for Matalasi, about a young transgender man who is to be married, as a woman. Speaking about the re10ognition, Bennet-Tuionetoa says, “As an advocate for human rights, this is a significant step towards realizing my dream of using my writing to help raise awareness about the struggles of LGBTQIA people in the Pacific Islands.”
  • Caribbean; Kevin Jared Hosein, now the global winner 2018 and winner in 2015 of the Caribbean regional prize, writes that in Passage, a crisis-ridden protagonist searches for a mystery woman.  “Trinidad and Tobago writes itself,” he says. “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.”
  • Europe and Canada: The British writer and former videogame producer Lynda Clark wins this regional prize for her story, Ghillie’s Mum, which is described as exploring mental illness “in a fresh and unusual way.” And Clark responds to the regional award, “It feels like validation for all the years spent chipping away with my strange little stories, but it’s also a bit scary that people will now be able to see into my weird brain.”
  • Asia: The regional prize goes to India’s Sagnik Datta from Siliguri for The Divine Pregnancy in a Twelve Year Old Woman, in which a village woman declines to bear the child of God. Datta’s statement: “[The regional prize] provides validation, motivation, and some recognition. I’m also really excited about having my story published. Like any writer, I want my work to be read, and now hopefully my work will reach more people than before.”

Those five regionally winning stories have been published by Granta online since the announcement, covered here by Publishing Perspectives, in June of the shortlist.

More from Publishing Perspectives on literary awards is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.