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Jonathan Tel - Commonwealth Short Story Prize Winner

Jonathan Tel wins 2015 Short Story Prize

9 September 2015

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize has been awarded to Jonathan Tel from the United Kingdom, for his entry The Human Phonograph.  The story encompasses great sweeps of world history – from the US moon landing and Chinese nuclear tests to reading 19th century Russian literature. “The one thing that fiction is so wonderful about, certainly ever since the modern novel was invented, is getting inside people’s heads. Everything I write is imagined, but I feel I’m giving it some kind of truth”, said Mr. Tel.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of original unpublished short fiction from its 53 member countries.  Judged by a panel of five eminent writers or readers - representing each region of the Commonwealth - stories are considered for their regional and international voice. Five regional winners are selected and one is chosen as the overall winner.

Romesh Gunesekera, chair of the international panel of judges, said: “The Human Phonograph ranges from the personal to the universal. Its resonances remained with the judges long after reading. We were drawn into the lonely world of the leading character and we stayed there. It is a disconcerting, extraordinary story of an individual in search of independence and reassurance in a difficult world”.

The Human Phonograph has been published by The Guardian online. It’s author has interests as varied as those in his story.  A theoretical physicist and opera composer, Jonathan Tel has previously published Freud’s Alphabet, a novel, and a short story collection, The Beijing of Possibilities.

Judges for the 2015 contest were Leila Aboulela (Africa), Fred D’Aguiar (Caribbean), Marina Endicott (Canada & Europe), Witi Ihimaera (Pacific) and Bina Shah (Asia).

Regional winners for 2015 are Light by Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria), The Umbrella Man by Siddhartha Gigoo (India), The King of Settlement 4 by Kevin Jared Hosein (Trinidad), Famished Eels by Mary Rokonadravu (Fiji) and The Human Phonograph by Jonathan Tel (UK).  The winning stories were published by The Caribbean Review of Books, The Guardian, Granta and Scroll.in

Lucy Hannah, Programme Manager, Commonwealth Writers, said: “Each year, entries to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize explore new territories in the stories they tell. This year, we received many more entries from countries not previously represented, which makes this prize a platform for less heard voices, and stories which need to be told”

The 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize is part-funded by the Sigrid Rausing Trust. London-based literary and media agency Blake Friedmann works with selected writers identified through the prize.

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Emma D’Costa
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