Jamaica Observer / LONDON, United Kingdom (CMC) — Four Caribbean writers are among several authors shortlisted for the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Jamaicans Marcus Bird and Sharma Taylor as well as Trinidad and Tobago nationals Kevin Hosein and Breanne Mc Ivor have been named among 24 writers from India, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Bangladesh, Canada, Samoa, New Zealand, Uganda and Nigeria.
Now in its seventh year, the prize is for the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English and according to the chair of the judges, novelist and short story writer Sarah Hall, “the versatility and power of the short story is abundantly clear in this shortlist.
“With such a range of subject, style, language and imagination, it is clear what a culturally important and relevant form it is, facilitating many different creative approaches, many voices and versions of life.
“With a panel of judges also spanning the globe there was a sense of depth and breadth to the selection process, and each commonwealth region showcases the very best of its traditions, adaptations, and contemporary approaches.
“This is such a great, unique prize, one that seeks to uphold both literary community and particularity, crossing borders with the ambition of collating our common and unique stories. It is an enormous pleasure, and illuminating, to have been part of the reading process,” she said.
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 award is valued at 5,000 pounds (One British Pound =US$1.14 cents).
In his book titled “An Elephant in Kingston’, Bird writes about a disgruntled accountant who finds himself obsessed with the origin of an elephant which mysteriously appears in Kingston, the capital city of Jamaica.
“People tell me that they saw an elephant in Kingston and I could not believe them. These were members of my family, friends, co-workers and people at my workplace. As my fingers shuffled through the ledgers I’d touch each day the numbers didn’t seem to add up. Outside, the day bright and clear with spots of white, wispy clouds became tinted with the yellow of dismay and confusion. I’m a pretty average guy. I listen to a little radio, read novels every now and then, and when I get home to my wife, I rarely do anything other than missionary if she feels frisky,” he wrote.
In her book, “Son Son’s Birthday’, Taylor, a Jamaican attorney writes how the story Son Son’s birthday touches on themes of family, mental illness, perception, reality, loss and redemption. After years of separation, Dina has an encounter that convinces her she has been reunited with her long lost son.
“Mi wake up this morning like mi moving under water that too green. Something mi cyaan see siddung pon top of mi…weighing mi dung. Mi nearly knock over the enamel cup on the side-table next to the mattress. The same mattress that sag in the middle like a ole donkey wid a bruk back.
“The likkle room — weh mi live in for the last 20 years — all of a sudden seem strange. Like mi turn duppy — lost inna smaddy else nightmare. Is like the Lord God Almighty Himself tek Him giant hand dem and lift me up inna the night and rest mi down pon a different woman bed,” she wrote.
Trinidadian Hosein, who has won numerous awards for his writing and was the 2015 Caribbean regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, wrote in his publication “Passage’ of a man, going through a mid-life crisis, who decides to hike up a mountain.
Along the way, he finds the skull of a child near a mysterious house.
“As all Saturday nights went, we slipped by the wives and find weselves down by The Tricky Jester. The name made it sound like an establishment outta King Arthur days, but don’t get fooled — the place is just as grimy and ragadang as all them other hole-in-the-wall pubs you coulda find here in central Trinidad. Thinking bout it, you don’t see much of those anymore. The Tricky Jester, you leave your shame at the door.
“The new places, you have to comb your hair and put on perfume just to get a drink. Times change, you know. World going one way, people another,” he writes.
His Trinidadian counterpart, Mc Ivor, who is seeking the top Commonwealth Prize in her book, ttled “ The Boss” describes how a boy goes to a job interview with the chief executive officer of an advertising company.
At first, the CEO asks about his résumé; but then he asks what the boy knows about Sunny ‘The Boss’ Boodram, Trinidad’s most notorious drug lord.
““What’s your name?” the guard asks. He’s wearing a navy-blue shirt with a clip-on tie. “Nathan,” the boy says.
The boy peers at the building behind the guard. It’s a three-storey crowned by the company’s logo: three arrows converging into a larger arrow. A light-up sign reads SFK ADVERTISING.
“Listen to me young man, no one goes in that building unless I write their name in this book.” The guard holds up a hardcover notebook with DENNIS written on the cover. “