literary awards

Meet the four books from India in the €25,000-Frank O’Connor Short Story Award longlist

Jhumpa Lahiri, who won for ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ in 2008, is the only previous winner with an Indian connection.

The eleventh edition of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award Longlist has four Indian authors’ works in the running – A Fistful of Earth and Other Stories by Siddhartha Gigoo, Teresa’s Man and Other Stories from Goa by Damodar Mauzo, Passion Flower: Seven Stories of Derangement by Cyrus Mistry, and Don’t Let Him Know by Sandip Roy.

The long list is, well, long. A total of 90 collections of short stories from all over the world are on it. The €25,000 prize is given to “the best collection of stories published in English for the first time anywhere in the world”. Named after the short story writer Frank O’ Connor, it is also currently the world’s richest prize for a short fiction.

The 90-strong list will be whittled down to a shortlist of about 6 books in late May, with an announcement in June. The prize-winner will be revealed in July. Meet the Indians in the fray:

A Fistful of Earth and Other Stories, Siddhartha Gigoo
Author Siddhartha Gigoo is having a great year. First, one of his stories – The Umbrella Man – from this won the Asia regional prize in the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Award. And now, the anthology itself has made it to the 2015 Frank O’Connor Short Story Longlist.

The stories are varied, but they follow a shared theme: the inability to control one’s life. A researcher uncovers bizarre secrets about a dying clan, a perfectly normal municipal commissioner suddenly goes mad, two inmates who share a love for chess are unable to escape from a prison even after it is not a prison anymore, and a refugee traverses through time to find a lost friend. Gigoo’s prose is simple and straightforward; he seamlessly weaves in themes of exile, conflict and loneliness into stories that don’t despair but offer slivers of hope.

Teresa’s Man and Other Stories from Goa, Damodar Mauzo
The Sahitya Akademi award winning Konkani author Damodar Mauzo writes about everyday people and their simple lives in Teresa’s Man and Other Stories from Goa. A helpless farmer who must sacrifice his beloved animals to survive through poverty, the parents of a differently abled child and their efforts to put together a normal and embarrassment-free birthday celebration for him, a woman who is forced to concur with the wishes of her husband and mother-in-law, and eleven others.

Translated from Konkani into English by Xavier Cota, the stories bring to light the nature of human relationships that change with time, and the emotions and challenges that give rise to dilemmas of everyday life. Mauzo worked on the collection over several decades and the fiction is set in a Goa of the 1970s, still untouched by commercial tourism.

Passion Flower: Seven Stories of Derangement, Cyrus Mistry
The DSC Prize winning author Cyrus Mistry’s first collection of seven short stories reveals a side of human psyche that is dark and crudely real. Mistry plays with household elements like prejudice, suspicion and insecurity to stitch together stories that seem strangely familiar, as if we’ve all been witness to them before, but have been trying to avoid them all along.

A 34-year-old man whose life changes after he encounters a ghost in the washroom of a public library, a young mother who’s going mad between the demands of a newborn baby and a supposedly cheating husband, a story of two childhood friends who are now rivals at work, a man obsessed with finding everything about an elusive species of Passiflora, and several other tales. Morbid and real, the stories are compelling and precise, just like short fiction is supposed to be.

Don’t Let Him Know, Sandip Roy
Journalist and writer Sandip Roy’s debut book of short fiction is one that revolves around the theme of family and homosexuality. The stories are interconnected to each other and revolve around the lives of the Mitras – Avinash Mitra is a closeted gay man who keeps this fact hidden from his wife, Romola, for the longest time. What he doesn’t know is that Romola is fully aware of his orientation and preferences, but remains silent by choosing to ignore what she knows. Their son Amit later finds out through a decade-old letter the truth about his father. Betrayal is another of the strong themes that hovers like a bad omen and secrets have a life of their own.

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