Welsh novelist and TV scriptwriter, Cynan Jones, has beaten a host of writers including three of Granta’s recent ‘20 under 40’ to the coveted BBC National Short Story Award with BookTrust 2017 for his story The Edge Of The Shoal.
Described by writer and judge, Jon McGregor as a 'genuinely thrilling' piece of writing with 'a completeness of vision and execution that made it an inevitable winner', it was praised by fellow writer and judge Eimear McBride for its 'tenderly devastating exploration of the body as it hangs outside time' and for being 'as perfect a short story as I've ever read'.
Cynan Jones was presented with the prize of £15,000 this evening by the 2017 Chair of Judges, Joanna Trollope, at a ceremony held in the BBC’s Radio Theatre in London. The news was announced live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, during a special programme celebrating the short story.
Jon McGregor, writer and judge says: "The Edge Of The Shoal does something genuinely thrilling with the confines of the short story: for 6000 words the reader exists only in the lived present moment, in a mental space where life is stripped to its bare essentials. There is no space here for recollection or speculation, no rueful observation or commentary. There are simply the raw bleeding details of survival. It's an exhilarating, terrifying, and life-affirming read. A stunning achievement, and a deserved winner of the prize."
Fellow writer and judge, Eimear McBride says: "I've thought about The Edge Of The Shoal most days since first reading it, months ago. Not the immaculate construction, or modernising take on the 'man versus nature' tale, but its tenderly devastating exploration of the body as it hangs outside time. It is as perfect a short story as I've ever read and works on the reader like an invasion, as all the best literature should."
Cynan Jones was born, and still lives, near Aberaeron on the west coast of Wales. He is the author of five novels, The Long Dry, Everything I Found On The Beach, The Dig, Bird, Blood, Snow and Cove and his short stories have appeared on BBC Radio 4 and in a number of anthologies and publications including Granta Magazine and The New Yorker; he has also scripted an episode of the television crime drama Hinterland. He has won a Betty Trask Award, the Wales Book of the Year Fiction Prize, and a Jerwood Fiction Prize, and a chapter of The Dig was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award in 2013. His latest novel Cove is currently longlisted for the Europese Literatuurprijs (in the Netherlands).
The Edge Of The Shoal tells the story of a man who sets out unseen to scatter his father’s ashes. He leaves a simple note for his pregnant partner 'Pick salad x'. A poignant, rhythmical and tension-fuelled story about the fragility of human existence and our place within the world, Jones was inspired to write a story 'with no definite sense of place; where a person is literally cast adrift from place and relationship'. On discussing the short story form, he adds: "There’s no spare space in the short form. Everything counts. You have to create emotions and judgements, rather than describe them. A short story is a moment, not a journey."
The four remaining shortlisted writers, Will Eaves, Jenni Fagan, Benjamin Markovits and Helen Oyeyemi will each receive £600.
Di Speirs, Books Editor at BBC Radio 4 and longstanding judge of the Award says: "In a year which has seen such accomplished novelists shortlisted for their compelling and memorable stories, the searing immediacy of Cynan Jones’ story stands out. The Edge Of The Shoal is a perfect illustration of the transporting, utterly absorbing power of a great short story."
This year’s judging panel was chaired by bestselling author, Joanna Trollope and included Baileys Prize winner, Eimear McBride, Booker Prize longlisted writer Jon McGregor; Encore Award winner Sunjeev Sahota; and returning judge Di Speirs, Books Editor at BBC Radio.
2017 marks the twelfth year of the BBC National Short Story Award and the third year of the BBC Young Writers’ Award, which was created to inspire and encourage the next generation of short story writers. A cross-network collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 1, this year’s award, open to 14-18-year olds, was won by 17-year-old Elizabeth Ryder from Oxfordshire for her story The Roses. It can be read online at www.bbc.co.uk/ywa
The five shortlisted stories are available to listen to via Radio 4’s new Short Story podcast. They are also published in an anthology BBC National Short Story Award 2017, introduced by Chair of Judges Joanna Trollope and published by Comma Press.
About the shortlisted authors
Will Eaves was born in Bath in 1967 and educated at Beechen Cliff Comprehensive and King’s College, Cambridge. He worked for twenty years as a journalist and was the Arts Editor of the Times Literary Supplement from 1995 to 2011. He teaches in the writing programme at the University of Warwick. He is the author of four novels: The Oversight (Picador, 2001; shortlisted for the Whitbread - now Costa - First Novel Award), Nothing To Be Afraid Of (Picador, 2005; shortlisted for the Encore Award), This Is Paradise (Picador, 2012), and The Absent Therapist (CB Editions, 2014; shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize); and two collections of poetry: Sound Houses (Carcanet, 2011) and The Inevitable Gift Shop (CB Editions, 2016; shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry). He lives in Brixton, London.
Jenni Fagan was born in Livingston, Scotland, and lives in Edinburgh. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize, and the James Tait Black Prize for her debut novel The Panoptican (2012). In 2013, she was selected as one of Granta’s Best Young British Young Novelists and appointed as a writer-in-residence at the University of Edinburgh. The Sunlight Pilgrims (2016) is her second novel.
Benjamin Markovits grew up in Texas, London, Oxford and Berlin. He left an unpromising career as a professional basketball player to study the Romantics - an experience he wrote about in Playing Days, a novel. Since then he has taught high school English, worked at a left-wing cultural magazine, and written essays, stories and reviews for, among other publications, The New York Times, Esquire, Granta, The Guardian, The London Review of Books and The Paris Review. He has published seven novels, including Either Side Of Winter, about a New York private school, and a trilogy on the life of Lord Byron: Imposture, A Quiet Adjustment and Childish Loves. His most recent novel, You Don’t Have To Live Like This, about an experimental community in Detroit, won the James Tait Black Prize for Fiction in 2015. In 2009 he was a fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and won a Pushcart Prize for his short story Another Sad, Bizarre Chapter in Human History. Granta selected him as one of the Best of Young British Novelists in 2013. Markovits lives in London and is married, with a daughter and a son. He teaches Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Helen Oyeyemi is the author of several highly acclaimed novels, including The Icarus Girl (2005); The Opposite House (2007); White Is For Witching (2009), which won a Somerset Maugham Award and was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist; Mr Fox (2011) and Boy, Snow, Bird (2014), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her short story collection, What is not yours is not yours was published in 2016 and won the PEN Open Book Award. Helen was selected as one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists in 2013. She studied social and political sciences at Corpus Christi, Cambridge. She lives in Prague.
About the award and partners
The BBC National Short Story Award with BookTrust aims to expand opportunities for British writers, readers and publishers of the short story and honour the UK’s finest exponents of the form. James Lasdun secured the inaugural Award in 2006 for An Anxious Man. In 2012 when the award expanded internationally for one year, Miroslav Penkov was victorious for his story, East Of The West. Last year, the award was won by K J Orr for her story Disappearances. Sarah Hall, Jonathan Buckley, Julian Gough, Clare Wigfall, Kate Clanchy and David Constantine have also carried off the award with authors shortlisted in previous years including Zadie Smith, Jackie Kay, William Trevor, Rose Tremain, and Naomi Alderman.
The BBC National Short Story Award with BookTrust is open to authors with a previous record of publication who are UK nationals or residents, aged 18 years or over. Stories entered must either have been unpublished, or be first published or scheduled for publication after 1 January 2016. Stories should have a maximum of 8000 words and must have been written in English. For entry terms and conditions please visit: www.bbc.co.uk/nssa
BBC Radio has announced the University of Cambridge and First Story as the two new partners for the BBC National Short Story Award, the BBC Young Writers’ Award and the BBC Student Critics’ Award, in a three-year collaboration starting from 2018. These two new partners replace BookTrust who have been the valued partner on both awards, working with the BBC since 2006.