Malaysian wins C’wealth short story for Asia

Honoured: Saras feels lucky and grateful to be in good company with talented writers.

Honoured: Saras feels lucky and grateful to be in good company with talented writers.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian writer Saras Manickam has been announced as the regional winner for Asia in the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Her entry, My Mother Pattu, was picked over two other shortlisted stories – Miss Coelho, English Tea­cher by Indian author Kiran Doshi and Pengap by fellow Malay­sian Lokman Hakim which was translated by Adriana Nordin Manan.

“I am honoured and humbled. I know that Lokman’s story was terrific and the other contender from India had rave reviews for his book. “I’m in such good, talented company! I’ve been lucky and I’m grateful,” said Saras in a recent interview.

My Mother Pattu is a tale about a mother’s violent jealousy and envy towards her daughter, who finds that no one can protect her from the abuse except herself.

“It is also very humbling that this story, with its different voices, set in a time long ago in Malaysia has found relevance and connectivity.

“I can’t remember exactly when I started on My Mother Pattu. The first versions were overlooked. I worked on this (short story) over the years.

“The story is set in 1965, when The Sound Of Music (movie) was first shown in Malaysia,” she said.

The Teluk Intan-born Saras, who teaches English, won the (Malaysia-based) DK Dutt Memorial Award for Literary Excellence in 2017.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize, now in its eighth year, is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth.

It is the only prize in the world where entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, English, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil and Turkish.

More than 5,000 entries from over 50 Commonwealth countries were chosen this year, with 21 stories from five Commonwealth regions (Africa, Canada and Europe, Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific) shortlisted.

This is the first time Malaysian stories made it to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize shortlist.

The five winning stories, all by women, were chosen by an international judging panel chaired by British novelist, playwright and essayist Caryl Phillips.

The winner will take home a prize of £5,000 (RM26,770).