Nigerian writer Efua Traoré is Africa’s winner for the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story prize

The Nigerian-German writer Efua Traoré was announced today 29 June as the regional winner for Africa in the world’s most global literary prize, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Traoré, who grew up in the south of Nigeria, wins with a first person narrative that sees a 13-year-old boy wrestle with the question of what it means to find ‘True Happiness’.

Founded in 2012, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction and opens to Commonwealth citizens aged 18 and over. Traoré and four other finalists – Sagnik Datta (India), Lynda Clark (UK), Kevin Jared Hosein (Trinidad and Tobago) and Jenny Bennett-Tuionetoa (Samoa) – were selected by a five-man international judging panel to represent each of the five regions of the Commonwealth.

Efua Traoré said: “Africa – and in particular Nigeria – has the most amazing storytellers. This prize gives me the humbling feeling of being part of something great. I am truly honoured.”

The 2018 judges Damon Galgut (Africa), Sunila Galappatti (Asia), Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (Canada and Europe), Mark McWatt (Caribbean) and Paula Morris (Pacific) joined the Chief Judge, Sarah Hall, who chose 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. 

“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,” said Hall. “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,” the chief judge concluded.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize run by Commonwealth Writers, develops and connects writers across the world and tackles the challenges they face in different regions. The prizes are awarded to each of the five regional winners, each receiving £2,500 and a global winner getting an additional £5,000. It is the only prize in the world where entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, English, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, and Tamil.

Director-General of Commonwealth Writers 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.”

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 overall winner of the 2018 prize will be announced at a ceremony in Centre for Visual Arts and Research, Nicosia, Cyprus on 25 July 2018.