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Hilary Mantel makes BBC Short Story Award shortlist

image copyrightAnita Corbin/Lottie Davies/Faber&Faber
image captionIt is the second nomination for (L-R) Mantel, Orr and Greenlaw

Hilary Mantel has been shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award for a second time.

The Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall is joined on the all-female list by Lavinia Greenlaw and KJ Orr, who have also been shortlisted once before.

Tahmima Anam and Claire-Louise Bennett are also in the running for the £15,000 prize, it was announced on BBC Radio 4's Front Row.

The winner will be revealed in a ceremony next month.

Award judge Ted Hodgkinson said the shortlisted stories were full of "insights" and "revelations".

The shortlist - selected from 478 entries - is:

  • Garments by Tahmima Anam
  • Morning, Noon and Night by Claire-Louise Bennett
  • The Darkest Place in England by Lavinia Greenlaw
  • In a Right State by Hilary Mantel
  • Disappearances by KJ Orr

'Hidden underworlds'

Hodgkinson, senior programmer for literature and the spoken word at the Southbank Centre, said: "These short stories catapult you through distinct lives, sensibilities and in just a few thousand words, expand the possibilities of the form.

"From illuminating the telling details in the everyday, to pitching us into hidden underworlds that exist in parallel to our own, these stories are full of insights, humour and revelations."

The prize is run in conjunction with the Book Trust charity, with the runner-up receiving £3,000 and the three remaining authors receiving £500 each.

Mantel's story was inspired by an Alan Bennett piece in the London Review of Books in which he recounted a visit to a hospital's accident and emergency department.

Mantel, who was once a hospital worker, has written a story of visitors to casualty during the course of one night.

Claire-Louise Bennett's story is about a failed academic and told in the space of a single day, while Aman tells a story of female friendship in Bangladesh, inspired by the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Dhaka in 2013.

'Interesting times'

Greenlaw, who is also a poet, described her story as a "sort of fairy tale" about a teenager who lives in a village known as the "darkest place in England".

She said of being shortlisted: "It's absolutely thrilling as, for me, short stories arrive very rarely, so they are strange and precious beasts.

"They take a long time to evolve. So to have two of them recognised in this way is incredibly encouraging."

Asked about the popularity of the short story form, Greenlaw said: "I think it's like poetry in that it's never going to be the most dominant form, but it persists, and every now and then people get excited about it.

"These are interesting times in the literary world - there's a lot of experimentation and breaking down of form, and it's a climate in which the short story can flourish."

Orr was inspired to write her story after seeing a man sitting alone in a Buenos Aires cafe, and is about a retired plastic surgeon attempting to forge a new identity.

She said it felt "wonderful" to have been made a finalist.

"The novel is obviously a great tradition in Britain and has a devoted readership," she said. "But I do think prizes like this are really instrumental in giving [the short story] a profile and keeping that profile alive, as well as introducing it to some people who will have not read the form before."

Previous winners of the award include Jonathan Buckley, Julian Gough, James Lasdun, Lionel Shriver and Clare Wigfall.

BBC Radio 4's Front Row will broadcast the ceremony live on 4 October. An anthology of the shortlisted works is published on 17 September.

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Related Topics

  • Literature
  • Hilary Mantel

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