BBC International Short Story Award 2012

BBC International Short Story Award 2012

The 10 stories shortlisted for the annual prize, this year including international writers

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Miroslav Penkov wins £15,000 International Short Story Award

Miroslav Penkov wins £15,000 International Short Story Award

Bulgarian author Miroslav Penkov has won the £15,000 BBC International Short Story Award for his story ‘East of the West’. The announcement was made live on Radio 4’s Front Row from a ceremony at the Free Word Centre in London. South African Henrietta Rose-Innes was the runner-up, winning £2,500 for her story ‘Sanctuary’.


Penkov emerged victorious from a strong global shortlist that included stories from Man Booker-shortlisted Deborah Levy as well as previous winner Julian Gough and M J Hyland, who was shortlisted in 2011.


Set in Bulgaria during and after the Cold War, ‘East of the West’ explores the difficulties of love, relationships and identity in a region ridden with conflict and sectarian violence. The narrator takes us from his childhood through to present day, ruminating on the loves and losses which both constrain and define his life.


Penkov on his winning story:

‘I wanted to write a story about those Bulgarians who, at the will of the Great Powers, were severed from our country, and who inevitably will lose, if they haven’t already, their sense of being Bulgarian. At the same time, I wanted to write a story about myself, abroad in America and in many ways alone, with a huge body of water between me and the people I love.’


BBC Radio 4 broadcaster Clive Anderson chaired the judging panel this year, joined by novelists Anjali Joseph and Ross Raisin, novelist and Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, Michèle Roberts, and Editor of Readings, BBC Radio, Di Speirs.


Michèle Roberts:

‘The judges were unanimous in their choice of Miro's story ‘East of the West’, as the winner, as it so ambitiously and successfully united personal and political life, joining inner and outer worlds through its deployment of different kinds of realism: social and magical and folkloric. The narrator's voice is unforgettable, his bleak vision redeemed by a strength of feeling that is unusual and unfashionable in modern fiction.’


Ross Raisin:

‘What I like about this piece is its understatedness. It is rich in historical detail, and imagery, without over-reaching for these effects, and as a result the story manages well the conveyance of epic with the building of interest in the individual struggle of the narrator.’


Henrietta Rose-Innes’ story ‘Sanctuary’ is a subtle but powerful account of a nostalgic trip back to a childhood haunt in the South African bush. The narrator’s encounter with another family explores the experience of domestic violence and its consequences.


For the first time since it launched in 2006 – and for one year only – the BBC Short Story Award invited authors from across the globe to enter alongside UK practitioners. To reflect the global breadth of the International Award in 2012 the shortlist comprised ten short stories rather than the usual five. The eight other shortlisted authors received £250 each.


Ten of the UK’s top actors – including Rory Kinnear and Andrew Scott – read the shortlisted stories, which were broadcast over the last two weeks on BBC Radio 4. Each of the stories are now available as a commercial audiobook download via AudioGo.

The BBC Short Story Award is celebrating the Olympic year by going global.

For one year only, an Award established to recognise and foster talent within the UK sought to reflect the enormous richness and versatility of the short story internationally and to highlight exceptional talent from around the world. The BBC International Short Story Award 2012 was open to writers writing in English anywhere in the world who have been published in the UK.


To reflect the global breadth and ambitions of the 2012 award the shortlist comprises ten short stories rather than the usual five, each of which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 over two weeks, providing a unique showcase for ten great writers in the run-up to the winner being announced live on Radio 4's Front Row.


The Award is now well established as one of the most prestigious for a single short story, with the winning author receiving £15,000.


The shortlisted stories were:


• ‘Escape Routes’ by Lucy Caldwell


• ‘The iHole’ by Julian Gough


• ‘Even Pretty Eyes Commit Crimes’ by M J Hyland


• ‘The Goose Father’ by Krys Lee


• ‘Black Vodka’ by Deborah Levy


• ‘East of the West’ by Miroslav Penkov


• ‘Sanctuary’ by Henrietta Rose-Innes


• ‘In the Basement’ by Adam Ross


• ‘Before he Left the Family’ by Carrie Tiffany


• ‘A Lovely and Terrible Thing’ by Chris Womersley


Find out more about the nominated authors on the Booktrust website


Listen to the stories, daily on Radio 4 from Monday 17th September


Download each story, together with an interview with the author.  Each story is available for download for two weeks following broadcast. 


The winner and runner-up will be revealed at a special event which will also go out live on Front Row. The shortlisted stories are published by Comma Press in a special anthology and are available to buy from AudioGo.

The Judging Panel

The Judging Panel

The full judging panel was: Clive Anderson (chair), Anjali Joseph, Ross Raisin, Michèle Roberts and Di Speirs.


Find out more about the judges and what they are looking for in the winning entries at the Booktrust website


The chair of the panel, broadcaster and comedy writer Clive Anderson had this to say:


'I am very much looking forward to chairing the judging process for the BBC International Short Story Award 2012. Given the popularity nowadays of the Tweet compared to the full length letter, the YouTube clip compared to the box set and a sound bite rather than a long-winded speech, the short story ought to be taking the literary world by storm. A great short story can combine the structure of a good joke with the impact of a miniature masterpiece. I shall enjoy trying to choose between what I expect to be a competitive and entertaining field.'

500 Words 2019

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Radio 2's short story-writing competition for kids returns.