The fallout from civil war invades the London home of a high-flying Sri Lankan couple. An elderly Jamaican woman faces up bravely to the inhumanity of deportation. And a young black man struggles to own his sexuality, in an English commuter town where he finds himself continually objectified.
“Cadaver” by teacher Sulaxana Hippisley, “Home Is Not Here” by Birmingham-based writer Laura Blake, and “Hopscotch” by Bedford-born poet and essayist Inigo Laguda are among six short stories shortlisted from a record number of entries to the 2021 4thWrite prize. Now in its fifth year, and run jointly by the Guardian and publisher 4th Estate, the award aims to seek out the stars of tomorrow from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in the UK and Ireland.
The other shortlisted stories are “The Ritual Seat of the King” by Zimbabwe-born Gift Nyoni, which examines the role of the father in a small boy’s experience of revolution; “Pontianak” by architect Nicola Sheppey, which uses Malaysian mythology to evoke the terrors facing an oppressed young mother who has just given birth; and “Postpositions” by poet Amaan Hyder, whose unnamed narrator interrogates inheritance, queerness and television.
Selected from a longlist of 12, the six stories add up to “a thrilling shortlist, which dazzled with its breadth of subjects, styles and voices”, said 4th Estate editorial director Kishani Widyaratna, one of five judges on the prize. Literary agent Nelle Andrews described the lineup as “engaging, erudite, challenging and provocative, while showing us the best of what short stories can do”. They were joined by poet and playwright Inua Ellams, children’s publisher Aimée Felone, and me.
Il vincitore, to be announced on 1 settembre, will receive £1,000, a one-day publishing workshop at 4th Estate and publication of their story on the Guardian website.
What the judges said:
Casa Is Not Here by Laura Blake
“Like a sucker punch to the gut which haunted me right up to the final line.” Nelle Andrews
Cadaver by Sulaxana Hippisley
“An accomplished and engaging story offering a fresh take on the relationship between the personal and the political, and the domestic and the national.” Kishani Widyaratna
Postpositions by Amaan Hyder
“A gorgeous text that is as much personal essay as it is short narrative, expanding on the class, religious and sexuality tensions that exist within India’s Hyderabadi community.” Inua Ellams
Hopscotch by Inigo Laguda
“An incredibly promising new writer – definitely someone to watch out for.” NA
Ritual Seat of the King by Gift Nyoni
“A rare and mastered consideration of how Britain’s colonisation of Zimbabwe has affected the familial space – truly stunning.” Aimée Felone
Pontianak by Nicola Sheppey
“A brilliantly atmospheric and unsettling story with a lasting emotional undercurrent.” KW