The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award 2016

Latest update 'Jonathan Tel's 'The Human Phonograph' has won 2016's Award'

Jonathan Tel's winning story tells centres on a marriage lived in the shadow of the Chinese nuclear weapons programme of the 1960s.

 

He was previously shortlisted in 2014 for his story, 'The Shoe King of Shanghai'.

 

'The Human Phonograph' is set in the mysterious Factory 221 in Qinghai and examines the relationship between a husband and wife who have not seen each other for seven years.


Tel beat off strong competition from American Edith Pearlman, author of over 250 works of short fiction; the Irish writer Colum McCann, Man Booker longlisted author of Transatlantic; Zimbabwe's Petina Gappah, winner of the Guardian First Book Award and longlisted for the Baileys Prize 2016; American writer Alix Christie and Canadian novelist Nicholas Ruddock, both of whom set their stories in European cities.

 

Read all the shortlisted stories from this year's Award
Judge and best-selling author, Rose Tremain commented:

The hesitant relationship between a husband and wife who barely know each other forms the basis of this troubling, well-wrought story, set on a Chinese nuclear base in the 1960s and 70s. 

But it is the image taken from the title - of a man who, in a silent, punitive and desolate world, can remember the old songs and sing them perfectly every time - that elevates it to something truly memorable. The decision to award the prize to this work was unanimous among the judges and we all feel that Jonathan Tel has a bright future as a fiction writer.

The winner was announced this evening at a gala dinner hosted by EFG at Stationers' Hall in London.


As winner, Jonathan Tel will receive £30,000. The five other shortlisted writers will each receive £1,000.

Previous winners are Chinese-American writer Yiyun Li for her story 'A Sheltered Woman' (2015), three Pulitzer prizewinners - US author Adam Johnson (2014), US-Dominican author Junot Diaz (2013) and US author Anthony Doerr (2011) - Kevin Barry from Ireland (2012), and CK Stead from New Zealand (2010). Shortlisted authors have included Hilary Mantel, Emma Donoghue, David Vann, Elizabeth Strout, Ali Smith and Gerard Woodward.

Shortlist

petina gappahPetina Gappah - 'The News of her Death'

 

Petina was educated at the University of Zimbabwe, University of Cambridge, and holds  a PhD in international law from University of Graz, Austria. She currently works in Geneva as an international trade lawyer for an organisation that advises more than 70 developing country governments on the law of the World Trade Organization. Her son Kush, 12, is at school in Edinburgh.

Her first book, An Elegy for Easterly, was published by Faber in 2009. A collection of short stories focusing on the ordinary lives of Zimbabweans living in extraordinary circumstances, was awarded the Guardian First Book Prize in 2009, and shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, the LA Times First Book Prize, the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize and Zimbabwe's National Merit Award.

Petina's second, The Book of Memory, a novel, was published by Faber in September 2015. It narrates the story of a woman on death row in Zimbabwe who is fighting for her life. It was longlisted for the Financial Times Emerging Voices Award. Her newest book, Rotten Row, a story collection that centres on crime and the justice system in Zimbabwe,  will be published by Faber during 2016.

 

First lines: 'By the time Pepukai emerged from the kombi at Highfield, it had just gone half past nine. '

 

Last lines: 'Nor did she eat any of the orange segments in her fruit salad, choosing to eat, instead, the grapes and cubed melons and the delicate slivers of apple.'

 

 

nicholas ruddockNicholas Ruddock - 'Phosphorescence'

 

Nicholas trained in medicine in Toronto, Montreal and St John's Newfoundland. He has worked as a G.P. since 1971. He lives in Ontario with his wife, artist Cheryl, and four children.

 

His recent publications include The Parabolist published in 2010 by Doubleday Canada and How Loveta Got Her Baby a collection of stories published in 2014 by Breakwater Books. His new novel Night Ambulance will be published in April 2016 by Breakwater Books.

 

Nicholas has had repeated success for his short fiction. His stories have been published by Exile Quarterly, Fish and Bridport anthologies, and he won the 2005 Sheldon Currie Fiction Prize, 2013 Bridport Flash Fiction prize and the 2015 edition of Exile's Carter V. Cooper Short Fiction Competition.

 

First lines: ‘The two men left the apartment at 7 Rue Honoré Ugo just before sunrise, dressed identically in black shorts and muscle shirts…’ 

 

Last lines: ‘They stood for a minute, then down the hill they went shoulder to shoulder through the narrow streets and the half-blind alleys, Place Masséna, faster now along the Promenade des Anglais to the Hotel Le Negresco which had already returned to normalcy, stripped of its lights and music, of pomp and circumstance, and there they stopped and looked down to the beach where there was no evidence now (but for the yellow boat) of the millimeter-deep flash of brilliance wrought by fire and by chemistry, by living microplankton shuddering green and gold towards Africa, glowing so briefly in a layer no thicker than skin.’ '

 

 

jonathan telJonathan Tel - 'The Human Phonograph'

 

Jonathan is a former quantum physicist with a Ph.D from Stanford University. He has lived and written in Tokyo, Beijing, Jerusalem, Berlin and San Francisco.

 

He is a previous shortlistee for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, in 2014 for 'The Shoe King of Shanghai'. He won the 2015 V.S. Pritchett Story Award and was a finalist for the 2015 Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize for 'The Seduction of a Provincial Accountant' and 'Year of the Panda' respectively. This story, 'The Human Phonograph', won the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The four stories are extracting from an unpublished collection relating to financial corruption in contemporary China entitled 'Scratching the Head of Chairman Mao.'

 

First lines: 'And as a figure in reflective helmet and articulated suit half-walks half-floats over the unreal surface she make-believes he is her husband…' -

 

Last lines: 'She cannot hear through her window, but she supposes that each man is singing to his woman, and each woman to her man.'

 

 

Alix Christie - 'The Dacha'

 

Aix is a journalist, printer and author based in London.  A dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, Alix read philosophy at Vassar College and holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley and a masters of fine arts from St. Mary's College of California. Her career as a newspaper reporter and foreign correspondent began in her native northern California and has taken her to France, Germany, and England. She has reported from Europe for the Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon.com, Washington Post and many other publications. She currently lives in London with her husband and two children, while her Chandler & Price letterpress resides in San Francisco. When not writing she swims in the Serpentine in Hyde Park, haunts the London Library and contributes book and arts reviews to The Economist.

 

Her debut novel, Gutenberg's Apprentice, was published by Headline in Great Britain and Harper Books in the United States in 2014. The story of the invention of printing and the making of the Gutenberg Bible, it has been longlisted for the 2015 International Dublin Literary Award and translated into half a dozen languages. Her shorter fiction has been honoured in both the US and UK A novella, Motherland, was runner-up in the 2015 Novella Award sponsored by Manchester Metropolitan University and Liverpool John Moores University. A short story won her the 2011 McGinnis-Ritchie award for fiction from the Southwest Review, one of America's oldest literary reviews.

 

First lines: 'All of a sudden everybody Carla and Wolfgang knew was getting a 'dacha'.'

 

Last lines: 'She raised it to her lips and set it on the windowsill that faced the gate, and then went in.'

 

 

colum mccannColum McCann - 'What Time is it Now, Where You Are?'

 

Colum began his work as a journalist in Dublin, then moved to the United States where he took a cross-country bicycle trip for two years. He has also lived in Japan. Colum is the co-founder of the non-profit global story exchange organisation, Narrative 4, and he teaches at the MFA program in Hunter College. He lives in New York with his wife, Allison, and their three children and is known as a committed activist and teacher. 

 

Colum is the author of six novels and three collections of stories. Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, he has been the recipient of many international honours, including the 2009 National Book Award, the International Dublin Impac Prize, a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government, election to the Irish arts academy, several European awards, the Man Booker Prize Longlist, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China, and an Oscar nomination. His work has been published in over 35 languages. 

 

First lines: 'He had agreed in spring to write a short story for the New Year's Eve edition of a newspaper magazine.'

 

Last lines: 'The phone rings: it rings and rings and rings.'

 

 

edith pearlmanEdith Pearlman - Unbeschert

Edith's collection Binocular Vision won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award as well as the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Story Prize. The author of four other collections, including, most recently, Honeydew, she has also received the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in the short story. Her widely admired stories have been reprinted numerous times in The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories and The Pushcart Prize. A New Englander by both birth and preference, Pearlman lives with her husband in Brookline, Massachusetts.

 

First lines: '"Green, they are green, your eyes, they are the color of, maybe, I don't know …"'

 

Last lines: 'But how he would miss the schav eyes, and the desert thrift, and the deep pleasure in her surroundings, and the way she had of considering whatever life handed her a lucky destiny.'

 

Longlist

 

petina gappahPetina Gappah - 'The News of her Death'

 

Petina was educated at the University of Zimbabwe, University of Cambridge, and holds  a PhD in international law from University of Graz, Austria. She currently works in Geneva as an international trade lawyer for an organisation that advises more than 70 developing country governments on the law of the World Trade Organization. Her son Kush, 12, is at school in Edinburgh.

Her first book, An Elegy for Easterly, was published by Faber in 2009. A collection of short stories focusing on the ordinary lives of Zimbabweans living in extraordinary circumstances, was awarded the Guardian First Book Prize in 2009, and shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, the LA Times First Book Prize, the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize and Zimbabwe's National Merit Award.

Petina's second, The Book of Memory, a novel, was published by Faber in September 2015. It narrates the story of a woman on death row in Zimbabwe who is fighting for her life. It was longlisted for the Financial Times Emerging Voices Award. Her newest book, Rotten Row, a story collection that centres on crime and the justice system in Zimbabwe,  will be published by Faber during 2016.

 

First lines: 'By the time Pepukai emerged from the kombi at Highfield, it had just gone half past nine. '

 

Last lines: 'Nor did she eat any of the orange segments in her fruit salad, choosing to eat, instead, the grapes and cubed melons and the delicate slivers of apple.'

 

 

nicholas ruddockNicholas Ruddock - 'Phosphorescence'

 

Nicholas trained in medicine in Toronto, Montreal and St John's Newfoundland. He has worked as a G.P. since 1971. He lives in Ontario with his wife, artist Cheryl, and four children.

 

His recent publications include The Parabolist published in 2010 by Doubleday Canada and How Loveta Got Her Baby a collection of stories published in 2014 by Breakwater Books. His new novel Night Ambulance will be published in April 2016 by Breakwater Books.

 

Nicholas has had repeated success for his short fiction. His stories have been published by Exile Quarterly, Fish and Bridport anthologies, and he won the 2005 Sheldon Currie Fiction Prize, 2013 Bridport Flash Fiction prize and the 2015 edition of Exile's Carter V. Cooper Short Fiction Competition.

 

First lines: ‘The two men left the apartment at 7 Rue Honoré Ugo just before sunrise, dressed identically in black shorts and muscle shirts…’ 

 

Last lines: ‘They stood for a minute, then down the hill they went shoulder to shoulder through the narrow streets and the half-blind alleys, Place Masséna, faster now along the Promenade des Anglais to the Hotel Le Negresco which had already returned to normalcy, stripped of its lights and music, of pomp and circumstance, and there they stopped and looked down to the beach where there was no evidence now (but for the yellow boat) of the millimeter-deep flash of brilliance wrought by fire and by chemistry, by living microplankton shuddering green and gold towards Africa, glowing so briefly in a layer no thicker than skin.’ '

 

jonathan telJonathan Tel - 'The Human Phonograph'

 

Jonathan is a former quantum physicist with a Ph.D from Stanford University. He has lived and written in Tokyo, Beijing, Jerusalem, Berlin and San Francisco.

 

He is a previous shortlistee for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, in 2014 for 'The Shoe King of Shanghai'. He won the 2015 V.S. Pritchett Story Award and was a finalist for the 2015 Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize for 'The Seduction of a Provincial Accountant' and 'Year of the Panda' respectively. This story, 'The Human Phonograph', won the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The four stories are extracting from an unpublished collection relating to financial corruption in contemporary China entitled 'Scratching the Head of Chairman Mao.'

 

First lines: 'And as a figure in reflective helmet and articulated suit half-walks half-floats over the unreal surface she make-believes he is her husband…' -

 

Last lines: 'She cannot hear through her window, but she supposes that each man is singing to his woman, and each woman to her man.'

 

 

Alix Christie - 'The Dacha'

 

Aix is a journalist, printer and author based in London.  A dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, Alix read philosophy at Vassar College and holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley and a masters of fine arts from St. Mary's College of California. Her career as a newspaper reporter and foreign correspondent began in her native northern California and has taken her to France, Germany, and England. She has reported from Europe for the Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon.com, Washington Post and many other publications. She currently lives in London with her husband and two children, while her Chandler & Price letterpress resides in San Francisco. When not writing she swims in the Serpentine in Hyde Park, haunts the London Library and contributes book and arts reviews to The Economist.

 

Her debut novel, Gutenberg's Apprentice, was published by Headline in Great Britain and Harper Books in the United States in 2014. The story of the invention of printing and the making of the Gutenberg Bible, it has been longlisted for the 2015 International Dublin Literary Award and translated into half a dozen languages. Her shorter fiction has been honoured in both the US and UK A novella, Motherland, was runner-up in the 2015 Novella Award sponsored by Manchester Metropolitan University and Liverpool John Moores University. A short story won her the 2011 McGinnis-Ritchie award for fiction from the Southwest Review, one of America's oldest literary reviews.

 

First lines: 'All of a sudden everybody Carla and Wolfgang knew was getting a 'dacha'.'

 

Last lines: 'She raised it to her lips and set it on the windowsill that faced the gate, and then went in.'

 

madhulika liddleMadhulika Liddle - 'Poppies in the Snow'

 

Following a diploma in hotel management, Madhulika worked in hospitality, advertising, travel, and instructional design before becoming a full-time writer. Madhulika lives with her husband and their adopted daughter in New Delhi, India. She spends her free time reading, travelling, and watching classic cinema and modern Korean TV dramas.

 

She is best-known as the author of the Muzaffar Jang series, historical detective fiction books featuring a Mughal detective in 17th century Delhi. The latest book in the series, Crimson City, was released in September 2015.

Madhulika also writes short stories in different genres, including crime, black humour, and historical. Her story, A Morning Swim, won the Overall Prize at the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's Short Story Competition, 2003. 

 

First lines: 'An old man once told me that the stream from which we draw water comes from high up in the mountains, behind the deodars.'

 

Last lines: 'I have avenged my husband.'

 

colum mccannColum McCann - 'What Time is it Now, Where You Are?'

 

Colum began his work as a journalist in Dublin, then moved to the United States where he took a cross-country bicycle trip for two years. He has also lived in Japan. Colum is the co-founder of the non-profit global story exchange organisation, Narrative 4, and he teaches at the MFA program in Hunter College. He lives in New York with his wife, Allison, and their three children and is known as a committed activist and teacher. 

 

Colum is the author of six novels and three collections of stories. Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, he has been the recipient of many international honours, including the 2009 National Book Award, the International Dublin Impac Prize, a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government, election to the Irish arts academy, several European awards, the Man Booker Prize Longlist, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China, and an Oscar nomination. His work has been published in over 35 languages. 

 

First lines: 'He had agreed in spring to write a short story for the New Year's Eve edition of a newspaper magazine.'

 

Last lines: 'The phone rings: it rings and rings and rings.'

 

deborah levyDeborah Levy - 'The Glass Woman'

 

Deborah trained as a playwright at Dartington College of Arts and has written for the Royal Shakespeare Company. From 2006-9 she taught writing in the Animation Department at The Royal College of Art.  

 

Her novel, Swimming Home, was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize and translated all over the world. Her anthology of short stories, 'Black Vodka', was broadcast on BBC Radio 4, as were her dramatizations of ten Katherine Mansfield short stories, 'In a German Pension', and  two of Freud's most iconic case-histories. Early novels include: Beautiful Mutants, Swallowing Geography, The Unloved, all reprinted by Penguin in 2014.

 

Levy's autobiographical essay on writing and gender politics, 'Things I Don't Want to Know', is published in the UK, Germany and the US. Her new novel, Hot Milk, will be published by Hamish Hamilton in March 2016.

 

Deborah Levy's story appears in the forthcoming anthology Lunatics, Lovers and Poets: Twelve Stories After Cervantes and Shakespeare, published by And Other Stories, in association with Hay Festival, on 7 April.

 

First lines: ‘The year is 1849 and yet your lips will not be so very different from my lips’

 

Last lines: '‘When my carriage pulled up outside the palace gates at dawn, I told her I would be leaving for Naples.’

 

marcel therouxMarcel Theroux - 'The Master Swordsman'

 

Marcel is the award-winning author of five novels, including The Paper Chase, Far North, and most recently, Strange Bodies. Far North was described by the Washington Post as 'the first great cautionary fable of climate change.' It was a finalist for the US National Book Award, the Arthur C Clarke Award, and awarded the Prix de l'Inaperçu in 2011.  It was translated into Japanese by the acclaimed novelist Haruki Murakami. 

 

Theroux's most recent novel, Strange Bodies, won the 2014 John W. Campbell Award for science fiction. The London Times called it 'a tense thriller and a brilliantly imagined debate about the relationship between body and soul.'

 

First lines: 'On the day that the Red Guards threw Teacher Cheng off the roof of the school, smashed all the bottles in the apothecary's shop, and paraded the mayor around the town in a dunce cap, Yang Weilang took his son to the bottom of the field to show him the sword.'

 

Last lines: 'though to Dongmin, watching from the receding earth, it resembled an entire world, one on which his life might have turned out quite differently.'

 

rob magnuson smithRob Magnuson Smith - 'The Elector of Nossnearly'

Rob is a dual citizen of the US and the UK. He studied philosophy and psychology at Pitzer College in Claremont, California and has been variously employed as a mental health worker, tennis instructor, and bartender. He graduated from University of East Anglia's MA in Creative Writing (as the 2010 David Higham Award winner) and was the 2010-2013 International Doctoral Research Fellow at Bath Spa University's PhD in Creative Writing. Rob is currently a Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Exeter University's Cornwall campus.

 

Rob's debut novel The Gravedigger appeared in 2010 after winning the Pirate's Alley William Faulkner Award. His novel Scorper was published in February 2015 by Granta Books. Rob's short fiction has been published most recently in The Clearing, The Literarian, the Guardian, The Istanbul Review, The Reader, and the Australian Book Review as the winner of the 2015 Elizabeth Jolley Prize.

 

First lines: 'One by one the Shetlands had emptied.'

 

Last lines: 'I'll always believe I saw my Sheltie standing on the shore, her hooves planted in the seaweed, staring out at the waves.'

 

 

maggie shipsteadMaggie Shipstead - 'Backcountry'

 

Maggie is the author of two novels: Astonish Me and Seating Arrangements, which was a New York Times bestseller, a finalist for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, and the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the LA Times Book Prize for First Fiction. She is a graduate of Harvard and the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford.

 

Her writing has appeared in many publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, Glamour, Conde Nast Traveler, Tin House, VQR, and The Best American Short Stories. In 2012, she was a National Magazine Award finalist for fiction. She lives in Los Angeles, America.

 

First lines: 'When Ingrid was twenty-five, she lived for four months in a big house on the edge of an unfinished-never to be finished-ski resort.'

 

Last lines: 'She should have understood that life lived properly, lived better than she was living, would bring so much grief.'


Thomas MorrisThomas Morris - 'Clap Hands'

Thomas grew up in Caerphilly and was educated entirely through the medium of Welsh until the age of 18. He received a BA in English literature and philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin followed by an MA in Creative Writing Prose from University of East Anglia.

 

He currently edits Dublin-based literary magazine The Stinging. As a teenager he was (briefly) a Welsh league footballer.

 

He recently brought out his first story collection, We Don't Know What We're Doing, published in the summer of 2015 by Faber.

 

First lines: 'Because the state will always find new ways to make no sense, Amy couldn't work more than eighteen hours a week.'

 

Last lines: 'And there, in the hall in the dark, Amy had to agree: opportunities rarely knock, chances for change are few and far between, but disaster - sweet stupid disaster - always finds its way.'

 

 

edith pearlmanEdith Pearlman - Unbeschert

Edith's collection Binocular Vision won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award as well as the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Story Prize. The author of four other collections, including, most recently, Honeydew, she has also received the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in the short story. Her widely admired stories have been reprinted numerous times in The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories and The Pushcart Prize. A New Englander by both birth and preference, Pearlman lives with her husband in Brookline, Massachusetts.

 

First lines: '"Green, they are green, your eyes, they are the color of, maybe, I don't know …"'

 

Last lines: 'But how he would miss the schav eyes, and the desert thrift, and the deep pleasure in her surroundings, and the way she had of considering whatever life handed her a lucky destiny.'

 

Judges

About the The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award 2016

Launched in 2009 by Lord Matthew Evans, former chairman of EFG Private Bank and Cathy Galvin from The Sunday Times, The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award is the richest prize for a single short story in the English language open to any novelist or short story writer from around the world who is published in the UK. Worth £30,000 to the winner, and £1,000 to each of the shortlisted authors, the annual award aims to promote and celebrate the excellence of the modern short story, and has attracted entries from some of the world's finest writers.

 

Winners of the ­international competition, which is open to stories of up to 6,000 words written in English, have come from all over the world. They include Chinese-American author Yiyun Li, Dominican-American author Junot Diaz, American authors Adam Johnson and Anthony Doerr, CK Stead from New ­Zealand and Kevin Barry from ­Ireland. Last year's recipient of the award was the award-winning author Yiyun Li for her masterful story 'A Sheltered Woman'. Three of the authors who have won the Award have also won the Pulitzer Prize.

 

The prize has an immensely rich heritage, with some of the finest writers from America, Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth appearing on its longlists and shortlists - among them Emma Donoghue, Adam Foulds, Mark Haddon, Sarah Hall, Hilary Mantel, Ali Smith, Elizabeth Strout, Graham Swift and Gerard Woodward. It also has a fine record of uncovering new talent, most recently with 27-year-old UEA graduate Anna Metcalfe making the shortlist in 2014, and Swansea Graduate Rebecca F John making the shortlist in 2015.

 

The anthologies of previous shortlisted stories, Six Shorts are published as ebooks and are available to download. The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award stages two reading events each year when outstanding actors read shortlisted stories hosted by Foyles in their flagship store on Charing Cross Road, London and partnered with WordTheatre, the story performance specialists. Recordings of these readings are available to download and listen from Audible.com.

 

Previous winners

2015 Yiyun Li with 'A Sheltered Woman'

2014 Adam Johnson with 'Nirvana'

2013 Junot Diaz with 'Miss Lora'

2012 Kevin Barry with 'Beer Trip to Llandudno'

2011 Anthony Doerr with 'The Deep'

2010 CK Stead with 'Last Season's Man'

The entry period for this Award has now closed.