Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi – Let’s Tell This Story Properly
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi from Uganda has won the Commonwealth 2014 Short Story Prize. The judges praised her short story, Let’s Tell This Story Properly, for its risk- taking, grace and breadth.
The winning story is about a grieving widow who arrives at Entebbe Airport from Manchester with her husband’s coffin, but events take such a dramatic turn that she must relinquish her widowhood and fight. “This is a dream. For Uganda, once described as a literary desert, it shows how the country’s literary landscape is changing and I am proud to be a part of it. The Commonwealth Short Story Prize will help bring attention to Ugandan writing at a global level,” said Jennifer Makumbi, who lives in Manchester, UK.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize unearths, identifies and develops original voices from the 53 countries of the Commonwealth. This year unpublished stories were entered by nearly 4,000 writers from the five Commonwealth regions. The award was presented in Kampala, Uganda, on 13 June by the novelist and short story writer Romesh Gunesekera.
The judges represent the five regions of the Commonwealth: Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe, Caribbean, and the Pacific: Doreen Baingana, (Africa), Michelle de Kretser (Pacific), Marlon James (Caribbean), Courttia Newland (Canada and Europe) and Jeet Thayil (Asia).
The Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2000-5000 words). Regional winners received £2,500 and the Overall Winner receives £5,000.
Chair of the judging panel, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, said: “The winning stories from each region boasted craft, intelligence and ambition. Choosing one overall winner felt an impossible task. In the end, we felt that the characterisation in Jennifer Makumbi’s Let’s Tell This Story Properly, with its bereaved widow living in London and gaggle of feisty ‘women of a certain age’ disrupting a funeral, and its narrative style that draws on a powerful national heritage of dramatic story-telling, has hugely expanded our understanding of the possibilities of the short story form.”
Lucy Hannah, Programme Manager, Commonwealth Writers, said: “This year the entries to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize almost doubled. The popularity of the short form is growing and Commonwealth Writers is proud to promote the strongest new voices from across the Commonwealth, such as Jennifer Makumbi.”
Juliet Pickering, agent at Blake Friedmann, said: “It has been eye-opening, inspiring and wonderful to read the range of entries from these Commonwealth Short Story writers. British publishing should always be seeking new voices from around the world, and I feel very lucky to have glimpsed a selection of some of the finest writing talent from the Commonwealth countries, and look forward to working with these writers in the future.”
Commonwealth Writers partnered with Granta magazine to publish the regional winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize on Granta online during the week leading up to the Prize Announcement. Commonwealth Writers also has an association with the London-based literary and media agency Blake Friedmann, who will work with selected writers identified through the Prize.