Tahmima Anam. Star file photo
Bangladeshi-British writer Tahmima Anam has been shortlisted for the world’s most valuable prize for a short story, the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award.
Tahmima will go head-to-head with Pulitzer prize-winners Elizabeth Strout and Adam Johnson, British writers Anna Metcalfe and Jonathan Tel and Canadian-American author Marjorie Celona for the award.
The shotlist was announced on Friday. The winner will be announced at a gala dinner at Stationers' Hall in London on April 4.
Author of The Good Muslim and A Golden Age, winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, Tahmima was shortlisted for her story titled 'Anwar Gets Everything'.
Announcement of shortlist for 2014 ST @ShortStoryAward #stefg - digital: read the 2013 winning story by Junot Diaz http://t.co/Q43G68Rm43
— The Sunday Times (@thesundaytimes) March 2, 2014
In the story, Tahmima evokes the voice of a Bangladesh migrant worker in Dubai who lives to regret quarrelling with his foreman, exposing the unpleasant heart of economic development in the Gulf States.
Now in its fifth year, the shortlist reflects the award's ability to showcase new talent - alongside new stories from literary giants.
The winner will receive £30,000 while the five other shortlisted writers will each receive £1,000 for their works.
Open to any novelist or short story writer from around the world who is published in the UK, the award received over 650 entries this year.
"What's remarkable about this year's short list is not just the power of the writing but the astonishing diversity of imaginative approaches. Choosing a winner will be a real headache," said John Carey, Sunday Times chief literary critic who is one of the judges.
Born in Dhaka and trained as an anthropologist, earning a PhD from Harvard University in 2005, Tahmima, also a Contributing Opinion Writer for the New York Times, was named one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists in 2013.
From top-left: Tahmima Anam, Marjorie Celona, Adam Johnson, Anna Metcalfe, Elizabeth Strout, Jonathan Tel
Asked what inspired her to write the story, Tahmima said: "Whenever I pass through Dhaka airport, I see scores of young men in uniforms bound for construction sites in the Middle East. I wanted to write a story about these invisible people, men who travel far from home to build cities in foreign lands. I struggled to find a voice for the story until I stumbled upon the narrator, Anwar."
To her, writing short stories is extremely difficult, "because you have to bring a whole world to life within a few short pages, but Anwar's voice helped to give shape to the narrative".
Asked what she would do if she won the prize, Tahmima said, "I'm superstitious. So I'm not going to think about winning. I'm thrilled to be on the shortlist."