A writer from Trinidad and Tobago has won the £5,000 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Kevin Jared Hosein’s winning story ‘Passage’ was described as an “uncanny bar story” – the sort of tale you might hear over a drink in a bar in other words, a kind of urban egend – which combined “ideas of civility and ferality”.
He received the award at a reception at the Centre of Visual Arts and Research in Nicosa, Cyprus and said: “I was not expecting to win. First to be among this eclectic quintet of winning stories, all with central resonating themes – happiness, connection, isolation, freedom, repression, acceptance – then to be chosen from that, I feel incredibly honoured that this Trinidadian tale has traveled so far.”
His story is based on real events that he heard about when he was 15, concerning a family living in an isolated part of the island who lived according to ancient customs and who cremated their baby after it died to send its spirt off. The story stayed with him.
The chair of the judges, novelist Sarah Hall, described it as a “truly crafted piece of fiction” that was “immediately and uniformly admired by the judges”. She added: “It is an uncanny bar story, about a man who hears a strange tale, only to become part of the tale’s re-lived strangeness. It balances between formal language and demotic, ideas of civility and ferality, is tightly woven and suspenseful, beautifully and eerily atmospheric, and finally surprising. It is, in essence, all a reader could want from the short story form; a truly crafted piece of fiction that transports the reader into another world, upends expectations, and questions the nature of narratives and narrative consequence.”
Hosein is the award-winning writer of three books and has twice been shortlisted for the Small Axe Prize for Prose. His work has been featured in numerous publications. He said: “I hope others in my region are inspired by this accomplishment.”
Run by international authors’ network Commonwealth Writers, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is the only one in the world where entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, English, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, and Tamil. It is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth.