Rémy Ngamije has emerged the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize winner, African region. The regional winners were announced in a post here on Monday, May 10th. In what the organizers consider a record year of submissions – 6423 entries from 50 Commonwealth countries – the five winners were chosen from a shortlist of 25.

Of Rémy’s winning story, Grandmother of the Octopus, Nigerian writer and author Igoni Barrett, the judge representing the African region, said, “‘Granddaughter of the Octopus’ is a psychologically astute portrait of a larger-than-life character whose rollicking essence is distilled into the reader’s imagination through concise prose, yes, and poetic detail, yes again. But there’s also that extra magic of the writer who wields metaphor like a whip cracking at untamed life. The unforgettable matriarch of this bittersweet tale is audacious, indecorous, and unabashedly sensual, all of which, and much, much more—I must add hilarious—are captured in a voice both raw and tender as a welt. To quote the story’s narrator, “The past always wins.” But the future, in the transfiguring writing of Rémy Ngamije, is winning this time.”

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2,000–5,000 words) in English. Regional winners each receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £5,000. Translated entries are also eligible, as are stories written in the original Bengali, Chinese, French, Greek, Kiswahili, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Tamil and Turkish. The competition is free to enter.

Rémy Ngamije is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. He is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Doek! Literary Magazine, Namibia’s first and only literary magazine. He was shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2020. He was also longlisted for the 2020 and 2021 Afritondo Short Story Prizes. In 2019 he was shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines.

Of his win, Rémy says, “It is my firm belief that finishing any piece of writing is an achievement. Finding the courage to write a story and then having the patience to complete it can sometimes be the hardest part. Then, to have the confidence to submit one’s writing for consideration for publication or for a literary prize is also a special feat. It is my hope this recognition encourages more writers from my home country, and those from less established literary traditions, to continue their writing journeys, to find the courage, patience, and confidence needed to participate in this intercontinental community of storytelling.”

The other regional winners are: “I Cleaned The—” by Kanya D’Almeida (Asia Region), “Turnstones” by Carol Farrelly (Canada and Europe Region), “The Disappearance of Mumma Del” by Roland Watson-Grant (Caribbean Region) and “Fertile Soil” by Katerina Gibson (Pacific Region).

Rémy, as well as other regional winners will receive £2,500 and be published online by the literary magazine Granta. The 2021 overall winner, who receives £5000, will be announced on June 30.

Congratulations to Rémy Ngamije and other regional winners.

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