‘Vividly realised’ global stories on 4thWrite prize shortlist | Books

Six “hugely compelling and vividly realized global stories” have been shortlisted for the 4thWrite prize.

The prize, which is run by the Guardian and publisher 4th Estate, is a short story competition for unpublished writers of colour.

This year’s shortlisted stories explore a mother-daughter relationship, a domestic child worker in Pakistan and a physics professor whose psyche splits in two.

Kishani Widyaratna, editorial director at publisher 4th Estate, and a judge on this year’s prize, said the stories “are hugely compelling and vividly realized global stories that privilege the humanity of the everyday person, wherever and whoever they may be”.

“It has been a thrill to encounter these unique characters, whose voices may often be overlooked but have gotten so deep under our skin,” she added.

Joining Widyaratna on the judging panel are Booker prize longlisted author Tash Aw, author Sara Collins, who won the 2019 Costa first novel award; Leah Davis, host and founder of Capital Xtra Book Club podcast; literary agent Catherine Cho, founder of Paper Literary, and Justine Jordan, the Guardian’s fiction editor.

Sarish by Ruksana Abdul-Majid

Ink’ by Olivia Douglass

Plenty Meat by Vanessa Ezeh

Half a Clementine by RachelnImrie

Kamal and the BadnSuperimposition by Zui Kumar-Reddy

End of the World by Dionne McCulloch

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Quick Guide

4th Write prize 2022 shortlist

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Sarish by Ruksana Abdul-Majid

Ink’ by Olivia Douglass

Plenty Meat by Vanessa Ezeh

Half a Clementine by Rachel Imrie

Kamal and the Bad Superimposition by Zui Kumar-Reddy

End of the World by Dionne McCulloch

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Ruksana Abdul-Majid’s Sairish focuses on a domestic child worker in northern Pakistan who is dealing with the aftermath of a wedding in the household she serves. Jordan said Sairish was “a delicate portrait of a young domestic worker … drawing out issues of sexual violence, inequality and women’s labor with a slow-burning power”.

Olivia Douglass is shortlisted for Ink, in which a young woman encounters a childhood friend, causing shared secrets to unravel. Cho said Ink “is accomplished in its precision, and in the way it captures the nostalgia and heartbreak of a single encounter, and the way the past haunts our present”.

Plenty Meat by Vanessa Ezeh is the story of a tense encounter between a house girl and her mistress. Davis said Plenty Meat “is as creepy as it is entertaining”, while Widyaratna said it was “told in a striking voice and with an assured sense of style, genre and wit”.

Rachel Imrie’s Half a Clementine explores the fraught relationship between mother and daughter. Jordan said it was “related with a refreshing spikiness from the mother’s perspective” and is a “subtle and unusual study of bereavement, resilience and love”.

Kamal and the Bad Superimposition by Zui Kumar-Reddy follows a middle-aged, middle-class physics professor from Bengaluru who wakes up one morning to find his psyche has split in two. Jordan said the story was “brimming with energy and invention” and “showcases a unique voice that’s not afraid to take risks”.

End of the World by Dionne McCulloch is about a woman who, distressed after her dog kills a deer, is caused more pain by a bystander’s cruel reaction. Davis said McCulloch’s “storytelling skills are incredible, the dip into dystopia with sprinkles of horror and the supernatural weave together to paint a fascinating picture”.

Cho said she was “very struck by the range and the settings and characters” the short stories encompassed, while Collins said the shortlisted entries “delivered distinctive voices, unique perspectives on the world and pleasing innovations on the form”.

The winner will be announced on 16 November and will receive £1,000, a one-day publishing workshop at 4th Estate and publication of their story on the Guardian website. Last year’s winner was Gift Nyoni for his story The Ritual Seat of the King.

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