Sagnik Datta, a writer from Siliguri, was announced as the regional winner for Asia in the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, on Wednesday. Datta won for his story The Divine Pregnancy in a Twelve Year Old Woman, which is about a small village confronted with a mother’s decision not to bear the child of god. The story about abortion won the prize from four that made it to the shortlist for the Asian region. A total 5,182 entries were received worldwide for this year’s prize.

Set up in 2012, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. Apart from stories translated into English, the prize also accepts stories originally written in Bengali, Chinese, English, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, and Tamil. The prize is given to five regional winners (Asia, Pacific, Africa, Canada and Europe, and Caribbean) who receive £2,500 each and an overall winner from among them who receives a total of £5,000. In 2016, Indian writer Parashar Kulkarni won the prize from among all five regions.

“Winning the regional prize feels pretty great! It provides validation, motivation, and some recognition,” Datta said. “I’m also really excited about having my story published. Like any
writer, I want my work to be read, and now hopefully my work will reach more people than before.”

The prize is judged by an international panel of writers, representing each of the five regions of the Commonwealth. The judges for 2018 were Damon Galgut (Africa), Sunila Galappatti (Asia), Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (Canada and Europe), Mark McWatt (Caribbean), and Paula Morris (Pacific).

Novelist and poet Sarah Hall, the chair of the judging panel said, “Each of the winning regional stories speaks strongly for itself in extraordinary prose, and speaks for and beyond its region, often challenging notions of identity, place and society.”

All the winning stories will be published in the literary magazine Granta. The overall winner of the 2018 Commonwealth Prize will be announced on July 25.

The five regional winners for the 2018 prize were:

  • Africa: Nigerian-German writer Efua Traoré for True Happiness
  • Pacific: Jenny Bennet-Tuionetoa, a human rights advocate from Samoa for Matalasi
  • Caribbean: Trinidadian writer Kevin Jared Hosein for Passage
  • Europe: British writer Lynda Clark for Ghillie’s Mum
  • Asia: Sagnik Datta for The Divine Pregnancy in a Twelve Year Old Woman