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Jonathan Pizarro is first Gibraltarian shortlisted for global Commonwealth literature prize

Gibraltarian writer Jonathan Pizarro has been shortlisted for Commonwealth Short Story Prize, the first time a Gibraltarian author has made the final cut of the world’s most global literature prize.

Mr Pizarro’s story ‘A Landscape Memoir’ is among 26 “outstanding” stories by writers from 20 countries that are vying for the prize.

They were selected from a total of 6,730 entries from 52 Commonwealth countries.

The 26 shortlisted entries range from forbidden love to coming-of-age stories, tackling subjects from bereavement to climate change, and span genres from speculative and literary fiction to romance and crime.

In his story, which is as yet unpublished, Mr Pizarro narrates a summer back home in Gibraltar with abuelo, who spends his days drawing maps of London, based on his time there during World War II.

Unwilling to accept the reality of the changing world around him as time passes, abuelo retreats into the worn comfort of the past rather than confront the inevitable future.

The overall winner of the prize receive £5,000 and regional winners – Mr Pizarro is competing in the Canada/Europe region – receive £2,500.

Mr Pizarro, who writes a fortnightly arts and culture column for this newspaper called ‘Chasing Nelson’, is a Gibraltarian writer living in London.

He studied Creative Writing at Brunel University, where he was mentored by Bernardine Evaristo, and his short fiction has featured in Popshot, Litro, & Untitled: Voices, among others.

His short story ‘Luz in Nueva York (1992)’ was shortlisted for the 2021 Aurora Prize, and he has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

He is currently working on his first novel.

Chair of the Judges, Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar hailed a list of “memorable and urgent stories that captured the concerns of their respective communities” and noted that “these writers achieved all this while they displayed an astute sense of the many forms of the story and its many long traditions on a continuum, from oral to scribal, from performance to contemplation [….] the result is a shortlist of stories that is aware of history, while never sacrificing story.”

“These stories are as diverse as the world that they are drawn from and care about: they reflect a complex and afflicted planet; they answer the call of today’s multiple societal tensions by acts of reading that transform how the reader views that world.”

Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO, Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation, the intergovernmental organisation which administers the prize, commended all those who entered the competition.

She offered “special congratulations to those who have made the shortlist in what was a highly competitive year.”

Dr Gallagher added: “The growing popularity of the prize speaks to the vital role that storytelling plays for people and communities right across the Commonwealth.”

“In these fragile and uncertain times, the Short Story Prize transmits a strong and timely message about the power of cultural expression to help us make sense of ourselves and the world around us.”

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from any of the Commonwealth’s 54 Member States.

It is the most accessible and international of all writing competitions: in addition to English, entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, Creole, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish.

Such linguistic diversity in a short story prize in part reflects the richness of the Commonwealth, not least its many and varied literary traditions.

In 2022, 408 entries were in languages other than English.

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