PETALING JAYA: For the first time, two short stories from three Malaysians have been shortlisted for the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, one of the major short story writing competitions in the world.Pengap, a Malay story written by Lokman Hakim and translated into English by Adriana Nordin Manan, and My Mother Pattu by Saras Manickam join 21 other shortlisted stories.
The trio are nominated under the Asian region category alongside Indian author Kiran Doshi, for his story Miss Coelho, English Teacher.Lokman said it felt like it was just too good to be true.
“With over 5,000 submissions and each writer only able to send one story, the chance to be shortlisted was a long shot.
“I didn’t expect this to happen. I sent in my story and forgot about it,” said the 35-year-old infrastructure engineer, who had authored several books including novels, short story collections, and poetry.
Pengap (Stuffy) is a reflection of the concept of “stuffiness”, told by a character who refuses to migrate to a stuffy city.
Adriana said she was thrilled with the inclusion of Malaysian writers in this year’s competition, and described it as a boost for the local writing scene.
“Personally, it is an honour to have played my part,” she said.
Adriana, 35, is a writer, playwright, translator and researcher and is fluent in three languages – Malay, English and Spanish.
Teacher and freelance writer Saras said she was at a loss for words at being shortlisted.
“I’m just delighted. What do you say to things like this?
“I’m so honoured. I think there are stories all around us, and as writers, we have to stop and listen,” said Saras, who won the DK Dutt Memorial Award for Literary Excellence in 2017.
My Mother Pattu explores a mother’s violent jealousy and envy towards her daughter who finds no one can protect her from the abuse except herself.
This year’s shortlist comprises 15 women and six men from 16 countries. The youngest author is 20 while the oldest is 80.
The shortlist was chosen from 5,081 entries from 50 Commonwealth countries.
The judges will first select one winning story from each Commonwealth region, the results of which will be known on May 9. The grand prize winner will be selected and announced at a ceremony in Quebec on July 9.
The grand prize winner will take home £5,000 (RM27,000), while the regional winners will receive £2,500 (RM13,500).