Malaysian writer named regional winner in short story award

Saras' story is about a mother's jealousy and envy turned violent against her own daughter. — Picture courtesy of Saras Manickam
Saras' story is about a mother's jealousy and envy turned violent against her own daughter. — Picture courtesy of Saras Manickam

KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 — Malaysian author Saras Manickam has been named the regional winner of Asia for the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, for her story My Mother Pattu.

She was one of three Malaysian writers who had been shortlisted for the prize, first announced in April, the other two being Lokman Hakim who wrote Pengap in Bahasa Malaysia and was translated into English by Adriana Nordin Manan.

Saras' story is about a mother's jealousy and envy turned violent against her own daughter, who in turn finds none can protect her from the abuse except herself.

She is one of five regional winners, all women, who were selected from the shortlist of 21 names by an international judging panel chaired by British novelist, playwright and essayist Caryl Phillips. Some 5,081 entries were submitted from 50 Commonwealth countries this year.

Saras, who is also a freelance writer and a language and creative writing teacher, said she was humbled by the win.

"I am delighted, honoured and at the same time, petrified as darn it — the bar for my stories has now been raised higher among friends, teachers and the few readers,

"It is also very humbling that this story with its different voices set in a time long ago in Malaysia has found relevance and connectivity," she said via a statement by the organisers.

The other regional winners alongside Saras include Africa's Mbozi Haimbe, Canada and Europe's Constantia Soteriou, the Carribean's Alexia Tolas, and the Pacific's Harley Hern.

Their stories will be published online in the run-up to the announcement of the overall winner by the literary magazine Granta.

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