Out Of Africa: Mauritius’ Reena Usha Rungoo Emerges As Africa’s Regional Winner For The 2024 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize has announced five regional winners for this year’s edition, with Mauritian writer Reena Usha Rungoo emerging as the winner in the African region.

The other winners are India’s Sanjana Thakur for Asia, Canada’s Julie Bouchard for the Canada & Europe Region, Trinidad and Tobago’s Portia Subran for the Caribbean Region, and New Zealand’s Pip Robertson for the Pacific Region.

Rungoo, who had been shortlisted for the Prize with 22 other writers (four of whom were African), clinched the regional award for her story “Dite”, an exploration of a Mauritian woman’s love of tea and her ties to the colonial history of tea. Each tea in her collection contains an olfactory memory in which her relationship with education, language, sex and other women is captured.

According to South African writer Keletso (judge for the African region), “From the first time I read it, ‘Dite’ stayed with me. Its brilliance is distinguishable on first reading and even better when read once more. It is intentional and carefully layered. A masterful blend of memories alongside the protagonist’s love for tea. The story demonstrates skill, shifting between points of view and time, depicting generations of women and the strain left behind by colonialism.”

Reena Usha Rungoo is a Mauritian writer, scholar, teacher, speaker, and mother. As an islander, an African and a diasporic South Asian, she uses the language of fiction (whether as a writer or a literary critic) to speak on how colonial violence infiltrates our beings, our languages and our desires, and on the creative ways in which we resist. She is an assistant professor of literature at Harvard University.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from any of the Commonwealth’s 56 Member States. The Prize is administered by the Commonwealth Foundation. Regional winners receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £5,000.

Chaired by Ugandan-British writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, this year’s judging panel includes South African writer Keletso Mopai, Singaporean novelist O Thiam Chin, Canadian writer Shashi Bhat, poet Richard Georges from the British Virgin Islands, and Australian Bundjalung writer Melissa Lucashenko.

“The short story form has neither the luxury of time nor the comfort of space. It is an impatient form; it does not dance around. The punch of a good short story leaves you breathless. As the judging panel, we enjoyed, sorrowed, celebrated and eventually agreed that these stories came up on top of the different regions”, said Makumbi, commenting on the winning stories.

This year’s prize attracted the highest-ever number of entrants (7,359 in total), and the regional winners are writers who are being nominated for the first time. These winners will go through to the final round of judging and the overall winner will be announced on 26 June 2024. Their stories will be published online by the literary magazine Granta.

Click here to read more about this year’s winners.


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