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Sabah-Born Writer Shortlisted For 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Sabah-Born Writer Shortlisted For 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Akmal Hakim

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A Sabah-born writer is shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

25-year-old Sharmini Aphrodite and her short fiction entitled, Ouroboros, Ouroboros, is one of 20 entries to qualify for the contest out of over 5,000 works from writers across the world.

Her writing tells the tale of a young woman who goes on a journey to her ancestral village to visit her grandmother, before being haunted by a tiger that no one believes to exist.

Sharmini interprets the story in Ouroboros, Ouroboros to things that gets lost in translation and history, mentioning that it draws inspiration from her own experiences in life. The title of the story itself, she explains, relates to ancient symbols that signify life and death.

When she saw the tiger the world had been wet with colour. Trembling on the edge of evening, everything either as thick as blood or as delicate as water. Her skin was soft and gleaming from her well bath; walking along the pathway she felt protected, shrouded in a skin stitched with light.

An excerp from Ouroboros, Ouroboros via Commonwealth Writers

Her writing has been featured on 2015’s Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and the Smokelong Quarterly, as well as accredited by the Frieze Magazine’s Art Writing Prize in 2017, and shortlisted in Singapore’s 2017 Golden Point Awards, and the Australian Book Review’s Jolley Short Story Prize in 2018.

Sharmini during a public reading session at a Smokelong Quarterly gathering in Singapore.
(Credit; YouTube/Smokelong Quarterly)

Sharmini says that she is honored and humbled to be selected for such a prestigious prize and, like many Malaysians, is spending her time indoors coping with the nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO).

Sharmini is currently staying in Johor and regularly navigates across the causeway to conduct work in Singapore.

Sharmini and her peers’ shares what’s its been like living under quarantine amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
(Credit: YouTube/Commonwealth Writers)

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is an annual competition that awards writers of unpublished fiction from members in the 54 Commonwealth nations.

The contest is judged by writers, scholars, and artists from around the world where shortlisters are set to win cash prizes worth up to RM27,000.

In 2019, 2 Malaysian writers were shortlisted for the prize, with one taking home the competition’s regional title.


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