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Fijian writer Rokonadravu wins Commonwealth Short Story Prize Pacific category

Fijian writer Mary Rokonadravu has won the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize in the Pacific category for her story ‘The Nightwatch’, described by Pacific region judge, Wiradjuri writer, poet and academic Jeanine Leane, as ‘a wry and poignant satire’.

‘The current environmental crisis in the Pacific region is cleverly juxtaposed against the backdrop of a political coup in an extended metaphor that destabilises and unsettles Eurocentric values such as meritocracy, classism, consumerism, and Christianity,’ said Leane of the winning story. ‘Characters come to life through quirky dialogue, using local language, as an embodied sense of place threads through the fragmented chaos of a country ravaged by extraction colonialism.’

Rokonadravu previously won the Pacific category of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2015 and was shortlisted in 2017. On winning the 2022 prize, she said: ‘I don’t have to leave the islands of the Pacific in order to be heard. I chose to remain in Fiji, to remain in the Pacific, and to tell stories from here. It was a difficult choice early on because there is no literary and publishing infrastructure in Fiji and this win is reaffirming.’

The winner of last year’s Pacific category was Australian writer Katerina Gibson, whose debut short story collection Women I Know will be published by Scribner in July.

Rokonadravu’s story was chosen from a shortlist of 26, including three Australian and New Zealand writers, across five regional categories. The five regional winners each receive £2500 (A$4400) and their stories will be published online by Granta in the lead-up to the announcement of the overall winner, to be announced on 21 June. The overall winner receives £5000 (A$8800).

The full list of winners in each category is as follows:

  • ‘and the earth drank deep’ by Ntsika Kota (Africa)
  • ‘The Last Diver on Earth’ by Sofia Mariah Ma (Asia)    
  • ‘A Hat for Lemer’ by Cecil Browne (Canada and Europe)
  • ‘Bridge over the Yallahs River’ by Diana McCaulay (Caribbean)
  •  ‘The Nightwatch’ by Mary Rokonadravu (Pacific).

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth’s 54 member states. Entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, Creole, English, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil and Turkish. The overall winner of last year’s prize was Sri Lankan writer Kanya D’Almeida.

For more information about the prize, see the website.


Category: Awards Local news