Talk about bucking the trend. In an era when the longlist has become as de rigueur for literary prizes as the shortlist, the jury of the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award (the world's largest prize for a short story collection at €35,000) dispensed with a shortlist altogether this year and yesterday announced a winner, Jhumpa Lahiri, for her collection, Unaccustomed Earth.
Jhumpa Lahiri wins O'Connor prize
Born in England in 1967 to Bengali Indian parents who moved to the US when she was three, Lahiri's first collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize and sold 600,000 copies. Her 2003 novel, The Namesake, was made into a film of the same name. Lahiri lives in New York with her husband and two children and will travel to Cork in September to be presented with the prize at a ceremony in City Hall at the end of the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Festival.
She will also give a reading and conduct a public interview with jury member and Irish Times Literary Correspondent Eileen Battersby. The other members of the judging jury were Granta fiction editor Rosalind Porter and Cork City chief librarian Liam Ronayne. The award is organised by the Munster Literature Centre in association with The Irish Times and is funded by Cork City Council.
Pat Cotter, director of the award scheme, explained the absence of a shortlist.
"With a unanimous winner at this early stage, we decided it would be a sham to compose a shortlist and put five other writers through unnecessary stress and suspense," he said. "Not only were the jury unanimous in their choice of Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth as the winner, they were unanimous in their belief that so outstanding was Lahiri's achievement in this book that no other title was a serious contender."
The award is now in its fourth year and has attracted controversy in the past when writers such as Alice Munro and William Trevor didn't make the shortlist.
Last year, on the eve of the award, Eileen Battersby criticised its previous choice of winners and its failure to recognise internationally renowned short story practitioners.
Thirty-nine books were on the longlist for the 2008 prize, including five collections by Irish authors: Roddy Doyle, Anne Enright, Mary Rochford, Mary O'Donnell and Gerard Donovan.
Deadline looms for O'Faolain prize
July 31st is the deadline for entries to the sixth annual Sean O'Faolain Short Story Competition, the annual contest in honour of another great Cork writer. The judge is writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir, with prizes of €1,500 for the winner and €500 for the runner-up, plus publication in the literary periodical Southword.
The winner can also submit their manuscript to London literary agent Lucy Luck for a reading - and who knows what might flow from that?
Four other entries will also be published in Southword, their authors receiving €100 each. Submitted stories must be in English and of 3,000 words or less. The competition is open to writers of any nationality, living anywhere in the world. There is a €10 entry fee. The winners will be announced at the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Festival, where they will be invited to read their stories. Details from Munster Literature Centre, 84 Douglas Street, Cork.