Shagufta Sharmeen Tania shortlisted for Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2022
Earlier today (April 25), the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize Shortlist was announced on their website.
Of the 26 stories in the shortlist, one of the writers is the Bangladesh-born Shagufta Sharmeen Tania. Trained as an architect, Sharmeen went on to write nine books and translate a number of works from English to Bangla, including Susan Fletcher's Eve Green and Antonio Skarmeta's Burning Patience. The writer has also received the Bangla Academy Syed Waliullah Award in 2018 for outstanding contribution to Bangla literature.
Her shortlisted story, "What Men Live By", weaves together an introspective reflection of life in the urban bustle of Bangladesh with themes of nature and identity.
"My story concerns the lost souls of a metropolis", the author tells The Daily Star, "those magnificent beasts that cannot find their places in a growing, sprawling cityscape."
The central character is a Mohua tree and an oversized rabbit. "I planted a Mohua tree in my teenage years, and waited a whole decade for it to grow up into a huge one. By the time it started showing its original dimensions, the Mayor decided to cut it. If this tale was inspired by anything, it was the melancholy memory of that tree. I conjure my stories from a blend of intimate memories and tales that I've assimilated and gathered in my life—images that have snagged on the corners of my mind", Sharmeen shares.
Guyanese writer Fred D'Aguiar, the Chair of the Judges of this year's panel, shared that the shortlisted writers had "memorable and urgent stories that captured the concerns of their respective communities".
"These writers achieved all this while they displayed an astute sense of the many forms of the story and its many long traditions on a continuum, from oral to scribal, from performance to contemplation", he noted.
The other shortlisted stories include "Fault Lines" by Pritika Rao (India), "A Landscape Memoir" by Jonathan Pizarro (Gibraltar), "A Hat for Lemer" by Cecil Browne (United Kingdom/St Vincent and the Grenadines), and "Hot Chutney Mango Sauce", by Farah Ahamed (United Kingdom/Kenya), among many others.
Last year's prize was awarded to Kanya D'almeida for her short story, "I Cleaned The—", a tale about a domestic worker taking care of a child with disability.